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Antimicrobial Resistance: A Broad-spectrum Public Health Crisis

Feb 13, 2020 at 12:00 AM ET

Abstract

The first modern mainstream antibiotic, penicillin, was introduced for common use in 1942. Reports of penicillin resistance began with Staphylococcus aureus isolated in hospitals in 1942. In 2019, over 2.8 million cases of antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) infections were reported by the CDC in the United States alone, making it a serious global health threat, and prevalence is steadily rising. Our understanding of the AMR phenomenon is constantly advancing and evolving our knowledge of how resistance mechanisms work, what causes drug resistance, how it spreads, and who is affected. This two-part webinar highlights the growing global threat caused by AMR infections. In part one of this webinar, we will provide an overview of drug resistance mechanisms, their spread, and current knowledge about the global impact of AMR infections.

Key Points

  • Understanding the true burden of antimicrobial resistant infections: explaining the global prevalence and epidemiology of drug-resistant infections, breaking down morbidity and mortality of the most critical pathogens, and underlining the unsustainable toll that AMR infections take.
  • Explaining how drug resistance works: demonstrating how antibiotics and other antimicrobial compounds work, the molecular mechanisms employed by AMR pathogens to evade these drugs, and how resistance continues to spread.

Presenter

Christine Fedorchuk, headshot.

Christine Fedorchuk, PhD

Senior Biologist, ATCC

Dr. Christine Fedorchuk is a Senior Biologist at ATCC Microbiology Research and Development. Dr. Fedorchuk has substantial experience in the fields of microbiology, molecular biology, and immunology. At ATCC, her work includes designing synthetic DNA and RNA molecular standards, studying antimicrobial drug susceptibility in antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacterial strains, and analyzing AMR-associated genetic sequences. Prior to joining ATCC, her work focused on host-pathogen interactions and the study of virulence gene expression and adherence in foodborne bacterial pathogens. Dr. Fedorchuk earned her doctoral degree from the Pennsylvania State University.

Questions and Answers

Can a vaccine help prevent antibiotic resistance?

Many routine vaccines prevent bacterial infections. If a person does not get infected in the first place, there is no need to treat with antibiotics. 

Why are antibiotics sometimes prescribed for viral infections?

Sometimes it is to protect the host from a secondary infection that the viral infection makes you susceptible to, but sometimes it’s inadvisable prescribing from clinicians who are undereducated, or under pressure to get through patients as fast as possible.  

How do I know if an infection is drug-resistant?

There is no way to tell without specific testing.

How do I know if I need antibiotics?

Your doctor should be able to tell from your symptoms or from tests if you need them. You can also ask if there are any confirming tests they would advise before starting antibiotics. 

What drives increasing rates of antibiotic resistance?

Overuse and inappropriate use of antibiotics.

Who is at risk?

Many drug-resistant infections are spread through healthcare settings. This means hospitals, doctor’s offices, long term care facilities, and so on. They can be passed during medical procedures, or on everyday objects like doorknobs. Other AMR pathogens can be spread through the community like any other infection. Many of these pathogens are more likely to infect people who are elderly, very young, or immunocompromised in some way.

Why aren’t there more new antibiotics to replace the old ones?

Antimicrobial compounds are difficult to find or create, and must go through extensive pre-clinical and clinical screening before they can attempt to be approved or made available. There are also significant financial hurdles that most companies cannot afford. We will talk in more detail about the antimicrobial pipeline in part two of this webinar.