Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

Image: Antimicrobial susceptibility testing in petri dish (Shutterstock)

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is increasingly a global health security concern, with drug-resistant infections causing 700,000 deaths annually.

AMR is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.

Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are sometimes referred to as “superbugs”.

As a result, the medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others.

According to the WHO:

  • Globally more than 480,000 people develop multidrug-resistant TB each year
  • Resistance to the first-line treatment for P. falciparum malaria (artemisinin-based combination therapies, also known as ACTs) has been confirmed in five countries of the Greater Mekong subregion (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam).
  • Since September 2015, WHO has recommended that everyone living with HIV start on antiretroviral treatment (ART). It is expected to further increase ART resistance globally.

What is the difference between antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance?

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of antibiotics used to treat bacterial infections (such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, bloodstream infections) making them ineffective.

Antimicrobial resistance is a broader term, encompassing resistance to drugs that treat infections caused by other microbes as well, such as parasites (e.g. malaria or helminths), viruses (e.g. HIV) and fungi (e.g. Candida).

What is KICK-AMR to Address Antimicrobial Resistance?

Burnet Institute and The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne hosted 12 health personnel working on AMR – pharmacists, physicians, laboratory scientists and epidemiologists - from Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands - as part of a new Australian Awards Fellowship program funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Find out more.

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