Our Increasing Resistance To Antimicrobials Should Be A Global Concern
Research and Innovations At some point in our lives, most of us have relied on antibiotics to help get us through an illness.
et, despite how much we’ve come to depend on them, this medication’s effectiveness is significantly diminishing as the bacteria that cause the infections become more resistant to their effects. We’ve become familiar with the term antibiotic resistance, but broader than the diminishing effects of antibiotics in treating bacterial infections, other micro-organisms like viruses, fungi, and parasites are becoming resistant to medication as well — and the all-encompassing term is antimicrobial resistance.
“Often, to diagnose you, doctors will look at what symptoms you have rather than do an actual test, because there is no quick test. It can take labs 48 to 72 hours to analyze a sample.”
Antimicrobial resistance occurs when micro-organisms, such as disease-causing bacteria and viruses, can no longer be eliminated from our bodies using antimicrobial therapy (for example, antibiotics), and it is largely a result of medication overuse. Unfortunately, this increasing resistance is becoming a global health crisis. “In countries across the world, more and more infections are becoming harder to treat,” says Frank Florio, President of BD Canada. “Micro-organisms like certain bacteria can no longer be treated by antibiotics and will cause 10 million extra deaths each year globally, and cost the global economy $100 trillion in health care by 2050. In Canada, the estimated cost of care for these antimicrobial resistant infections is a billion dollars.”
Antimicrobials play a major role in the Canadian health care system. In 2013, of the over 200 million diagnoses by Canadian physicians, eight percent involved a recommendation for an antimicrobial. Yet, despite the prevalence of antimicrobial use, it’s actually very difficult to successfully diagnose an infection, and determine whether an illness will respond to the medication. “Often, to diagnose you, doctors will look at what symptoms you have rather than do an actual test, because there is no quick test. It can take labs 48 to 72 hours to analyze a sample,” notes Florio.
Of particular concern to the health care industry are infections acquired while in hospitals (known as HAIs). “In Canada, there are about 18,000 drug-resistant infections acquired in Canadian hospitals each year.” These infections can lead to severe illness and even death and can be spread to other individuals. The effect on the health care system and individual Canadians and their families cannot be overestimated,” insists Florio.
One of the best ways to respond to antimicrobial resistance is to actually test patients to get accurate medical diagnoses. Florio explains that in fact, the right point-of-care technologies already exist and are seeing use around the world. “Doctors and front-line care workers can do in minutes what would otherwise take 48 to 72 hours. The government and health care system need a coordinated approach and need to focus on prevention and timely detection, which would also align Canada with the World Health Organization’s mandate on antimicrobial resistance. This action would result in more lives saved. We must ensure that the medicine that has worked for us in the past will continue to work for us in the future.”