The next health crisis: antimicrobial resistance

Now that we are immersed in the worst pandemic since the Spanish Flu in 1918, a problem has come to light that haunts health systems around the world: resistance to antibiotics caused, in large part, by self-medication and improper use of them.

This has created a problem, as antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an emerging global phenomenon and constitutes one of the most serious health problems today.

There is evidence and information on the existence of untreatable diseases, the lack of new antibiotics and the economic impact of AMR, which, it is estimated, may cause a reduction of 2 to 3.5 percent of world GDP in the world.

Studies indicate that if AMR is not contained, by 2050 it could be the leading cause of death in the world, causing one death every 3 seconds.

ADR increases the cost of health care due to the longer duration of hospitalizations and the need for more intensive care.

Without effective antimicrobials to prevent and treat infections, interventions such as organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes treatment, or major surgery will become very high-risk procedures.

AMR is favored by the inappropriate use of antimicrobials in human medicine, veterinary medicine, agriculture and aquaculture. Lack of hygiene and sanitation also complicate global efforts to contain them.

Other factors that influence this problem are incomplete treatments by patients; taking antibiotics to treat viral infections such as colds or flu; and the wrong prescription of medication.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 50 percent of antibiotics are used improperly.

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Currently, AMR rates are high and are forecast to rise further if no effective action is taken; therefore, it is expected to produce a significant economic and health burden in OECD countries and the European Union.

1. Natural or intrinsic: All bacteria of the same species are resistant to some families of antibiotics and this allows them to have competitive advantages over other strains and can survive if that antibiotic is used.

2. Acquired: It is the one that can lead to therapeutic failure when a supposedly active antibiotic is used on the germ that causes the infection. Bacteria are capable of acquiring resistance based on their genetic variability.

While antibiotics destroy or inhibit susceptible strains, they in turn paradoxically allow the selection of resistant bacteria capable of surviving, multiplying, and spreading.

For example, in 70 years, only two new antibiotics have been marketed against drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis.

Antibiotics can be classified based on the effects they produce on bacteria, which are:

They inhibit bacterial growth.

Bactericides: They produce bacterial death or lysis.

When the bacterium remains immune to the effects of antibiotics, either naturally or acquired, it is said to be resistant.

The AMR health crisis is preventable, both by raising awareness for the proper use of antibiotics by governments and health sectors together with the private sector; as well as ensuring that innovative antibiotics continue to be developed to be available to patients by the biopharmaceutical industry.

Now that you know all this, avoid self-medication with antibiotics and in case of presenting a bacterial infection, the ideal is that you go directly to a health specialist.

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