Antimicrobial resistance: a global threat, an international response

It could ultimately undermine a century of medical progress1. The ticking health time bomb of antimicrobial resistance is in sights of the WHO, which has organised the annual World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18–24 November) since 2015. The Microbiota Institute plays an active role in this initiative, producing and sharing exclusive content throughout November on the impact of antimicrobials on the gut microbiota. We take a quick look at what's happening.

Created 28 October 2021
Updated 16 November 2021

About this article

Created 28 October 2021
Updated 16 November 2021

On the one hand, they are an extraordinary scientific discovery that saves millions of lives. On the other, their excessive and sometimes inappropriate use can lead to the emergence of multiple forms of resistance in microorganisms (including bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi). As a result, although they were designed to heal, antimicrobials are becoming less and less effective and, ultimately, if no action is taken, there is a risk that they will no longer be able to protect us from infections.  

Antimicrobial resistance would become responsible for almost 700,000 annual deaths worldwide2. If nothing changes, infectious diseases could become one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide by 2050, causing up to 10 million deaths2.

700,000  Antimicrobial resistance would become responsible for almost 700,000  annual deaths worldwide

The WHO is spearheading the international response to this scourge. Since 2015, it has organised World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, held on 18–24 November, which aims to increase awareness of this global phenomenon and encourage the general public, healthcare professionals and decision-makers to use antibiotics carefully, to prevent the further emergence of antimicrobial resistance.

As a major centre of expertise on the microbiota, the Microbiota Institute has been an active partner for the event since 2020. Throughout November, the Institute will be sharing articles and news, as well as expert videos and downloads on key topics, to enhance your knowledge and help you understand the mid- and long-term effects of antibiotics on the human microbiota. To cite just one example, despite their well-known efficacy against bacteria (and lack of efficacy against viral infection3), they often lead to dysbiosis. This is associated with several well-known problems, such as antibiotic-associated diarrhea. But there's more! Taking antibiotics is also suspected to increase the risk of multiple chronic diseases4 (allergies, asthma, obesity, chronic inflammatory bowel disease, etc.), particularly if they are prescribed in early childhood. So can we do anything about it? Yes! By encouraging good prescription practices to ensure that antibiotics are used properly! But also by educating patients on the risks of dysbiosis associated with excessive and inappropriate use of antibiotics. We are all responsible and we all have a role to play in reducing antimicrobial resistance!

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