World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2022 is taking place from today (November 18) to November 24.
Organised by the World Health Organisation, the theme for this year is ‘Preventing antimicrobial resistance together’ – which aims to encourage people to learn more about antibiotic resistance.
You might remember that last year we published a series of features about why having such knowledge is important… and although lots can change in a year, our message here remains the same as WHO’s overall slogan – antimicrobials: handle with care. By gaining a basic understanding of antibiotics, why we use them and when to correctly, and why some infections are antibiotic-resistant, we can all help each other.
Registered charity Antibiotic Research UK is taking part in the awareness week this year and has this to say: “This is a week in which people all over the globe raise awareness of the problem of antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance is a huge global health crisis which is already responsible for 700,000 deaths a year. It’s predicted that if the current situation doesn’t improve, the death toll caused by antimicrobial resistance could reach 10 million by 2050.
“Without antibiotics, then treatments we take for granted – such as caesarean sections, hip replacements and cancer therapies – could be too risky to undertake. And simple infections such as ear, throat, skin, blood, and urinary tract could lead to sepsis.
“Antibiotics are medicines used to treat bacterial infections, and either kill a specific type (or types) of bacteria or stop them from reproducing and spreading. Antibiotics have been around since the 1920s. Prior to that, people would often die from bacterial infections, for which there were no effective treatments. A bacterial population can double in size approximately every 20 minutes. They can produce large populations in a very short time
“According to Darwin’s theory of natural selection and survival of the fittest, bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics in a very short space of time. As a consequence, they are able to evade being killed by antibiotics very quickly and many of the antibiotic treatments we rely upon are ineffective. People are once again dying due of simple infections.
“Antibiotic resistance is where the bacteria that cause infections become resistant to antibiotics. It is a global catastrophe that threatens the lives of millions of people around the world if we don’t act now. We are often exposed to bacteria that can be harmful to our health. This could be during medical procedures, such as dental work to organ transplantation, cancer therapy to hip or knee replacements. It can also happen when we injure ourselves, even through a simple scratch, or are exposed to a contaminated environment. As bacteria become increasingly resistant to the effects of antibiotics so the number of deaths will increase because of this.”
The charity’s aims are to fund research into new antibiotic therapies and alternative treatments for infections, to educate the public and professionals in how to prevent antibiotic resistance, and to support people affected by resistant infections. Its website is full of essential and useful information – find out more here: www.antibioticresearch.org.uk
WHO says: “Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a threat to humans, animals, plants and the environment. It affects us all. That is why this year’s theme calls for cross-sectoral collaboration to preserve the efficacy of these important products. To curb AMR effectively, all sectors must use antimicrobials prudently and adopt other preventive measures.
“The following actions can help reduce the need for antimicrobials and minimize the emergence of AMR: Strengthen infection prevention and control in health facilities, farmsand food industry premises; ensure access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, and vaccines; implement best practices in food and agricultural production; and minimise pollution and ensure proper waste and sanitation management.”
This year St Hugh’s Hospital is joining in by sharing information throughout the week – keep an eye on our social media channels.