Emerging antimicrobial resistance is the biggest threat to the treatment of bacterial infections in the world today.
Antibiotics have been life-saving since penicillin was discovered in the 1940s, but use of antibiotics results in the selection of resistant strains which have all the virulence factors of their antibiotic-sensitive relations and can cause infections that are difficult to treat.
Your Role as a Nurse
As healthcare workers at the forefront of patient care, we need to support the idea of antimicrobial stewardship. This includes:
- Avoid requesting antibiotics for treatment of viral or fungal infections in our own personal and family care
- Use the right antibiotic by the right route for the shortest appropriate time in our personal and professional lives
- Refrain from disposing of unused antibiotics into the environment
- Use hand hygiene and other infection control practices at all times to decrease the risk of spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
This is an emerging crisis and we need to be educated and aware of our roles, and how we can assist with reducing these risks.
Why has resistance emerged?
- Misuse and abuse of these valuable medicines has resulted in the increasing emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains
- Misuse has included treatment of viral infections which are not affected by antibiotics; instead this selects and encourages the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
- Misuse has also included the use of low doses of antibiotics, which again selects for the survival of resistant strains
- Long-term use, prophylactic use and over-the-counter availability of antibiotics has increased the evolutionary pressure on sensitive bacteria to be replaced by these emergent resistant strains
- Veterinary and horticulture use in animal and plant disease prevention and growth promotion have also increased the emergence of resistant bacteria in the food chain, so that human gut and skin colonisation with antibiotic-resistant organisms can occur, increasing the risk of subsequent human infections with these colonising antibiotic-resistant organisms; and
- Research and development have failed to keep up with the demand for new antibiotics which are effective against these emerging antibiotic-resistant micro-organisms.
- World Health Organisation 2013, Antimicrobial resistance- fact sheet N°194, viewed 21 November 2016, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs194/en/