At the end of 2014, the first report from the O’Neill Review was published, spelling out the health and economic impact of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The second report, published last month, outlined specific actions needed to tackle this global threat. At the time of commissioning, David Cameron was quoted saying: “If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine”.
Although this does sound dramatic, the message remains: a continued global effort is needed to tackle AMR.
In the UK alone, there is now increasing activity involving scientists, clinicians, economists, politicians and the media who are all working to raise awareness and find solutions to this growing problem. The Longitude Prize is probably the highest profile from the point of view of raising awareness in the eyes of the general public. There are campaigns within the veterinary arena, and in general practice and acute care settings, promoting the stewardship of antibiotics in veterinary and human healthcare. Globally, microbiologists are looking for faster diagnostic tools and new antimicrobials, and they are meeting with increasing frequency to discuss this urgent issue.
I have anecdotal evidence from non-scientist family and friends demonstrating the effectiveness of the Longitude Prize in raising awareness of the ongoing threat of AMR. And in the US, at the time of writing this piece, a potential new class of antibiotic has been found to be effective against pathogens in mice, and early indications show it may be slow to develop resistance*. Although in the early stages of development, there is hope that this compound will become an effective antibiotic drug against human pathogens. So, although with caution, I think we can offer a glimmer of hope.
But the effort must continue and to that end SfAM is working with six other Learned Societies to enhance understanding and knowledge sharing on AMR between academia, industry and clinicians through the LeSPAR Network.
This network represents 75,000 scientists who have come together to lead the fight against AMR. The network aims to provide a single unified voice, take action and champion best practice, as well as raising awareness of the global challenge of AMR. Visit the SfAM website for the latest LeSPAR developments (www.sfam.org.uk/LeSPAR).
As I write, we have just embarked upon a Strategy Away Day and we are in the process of setting the Society’s aims and objectives for the future. Officials of the Society met for an intensive day-long event to really get to the bottom of who we are, who we want to be, what we want to be doing and how we want to be doing it.
We’ll be publishing our strategy in the coming months, so keep in touch to find out more about our priorities for the future. But of course AMR will remain a priority area for SfAM and we plan to make a contribution to this global challenge facing humanity.
*The above image shows the iChip in use – a new tool for culturing soil bacteria in the lab