Group 3—Antimicrobial resistance in a connected world

Chair: Dr Deborah Williamson

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest public health threats of the modern age. As the prevalence of resistance increases, modern health systems and treatments that rely heavily on antibiotics such as organ transplantation, intensive care and neonatology are compromised, and may lead to a return to the ‘dark ages of medicine’.

Over recent years, several factors have combined to create a ‘perfect storm’ for the emergence and dissemination of antimicrobial resistance. These include:

  • the use and misuse of antimicrobials in human and animal health
  • a lack of coordinated surveillance to monitor the emergence of resistance
  • a relatively ‘dry’ pharmaceutical pipeline for the development of new antibiotics
  • increasing globalisation, promoting the rapid spread of resistant pathogens.

There are many reports detailing the potential societal and economic impact of antimicrobial resistance, although far less publicly available information on strategies to combat the antimicrobial resistance crisis. In this cross-disciplinary panel, we will assess the risks posed by antimicrobial resistance in Australia and globally, and identify strategies to combat this risk. We will also discuss the barriers to implementing these strategies, and identify solutions to overcome these barriers.

Questions to get you thinking

  1. Is the risk posed by antimicrobial resistance real or largely perceived?
  2. What are the key drivers of antimicrobial resistance?
  3. Where does the accountability for reducing antimicrobial resistance lie? Is it with patients, practitioners, regulators or policy makers?
  4. Given the common use of the media term ‘superbugs,’ is there a risk of promoting a ‘cry wolf’ perception of the antimicrobial resistance crisis? How do we best educate the public about appropriate use of antimicrobials?

Recommended reading

  1. Australian National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy 2015-2019
  2. World Health Organization, Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance, 2015
  3. Antimicrobials: access and sustainable effectiveness. The Lancet, 2015
  4. Tackling drug-resistant infections globally: Final report and recommendations by The review on antimicrobial resistance

© 2021 Australian Academy of Science