By: Yemi Alade, Director, Pharmacy Operations

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the top ten global public health threats facing humanity today, according to the WHO. New data from a 2022 study1 revealed that over 1.27 million people die yearly from AMR—more than HIV/AIDs or malaria. One out of every four infections already resist the medications used in initial therapy. The tools we employ to tackle dangerous germs like bacteria, viruses, fungus, or parasites include antibiotics. However, as these germs become accustomed to repeated strikes, our best weapons become useless. What causes that to occur? There are several ways harmful microbes can resist antimicrobial drugs. Some form an outer membrane like a shield wall that prevents or limits access into the cell. When medications enter the cell, certain other microbes create internal pumps to eject them Some pneumonia-causing bacteria counterattack by producing enzymes that break down antibiotics, rendering them harmless or destroying them. Still, others change their cell walls or genes to prevent the antimicrobial from latching on or binding.

Should we stop using antimicrobials since the more we use them, the more resistant microbes develop? Antimicrobials have saved countless lives. After the discovery of penicillin in 1928, the average life expectancy jumped from 47 years to almost 83 years in Canada. Antimicrobials are necessary but overprescribing them is creating resistance. In Canada, over 30% of antibiotics prescribed are inappropriate (50% for respiratory infections). That number skyrockets in veterinary medicine, where antibiotic use in livestock farms and clinics is 65% higher than in human medicine.

The fight against resistance must start with education, creating awareness amongst the general public, farmers, doctors, veterinarians and other healthcare practitioners on the proper use of antibiotics.

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