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November 16, 2022

Antibiotic resistance – the healthcare professionals’ perspective

In October´s M3 Pulse survey, we asked over 4100 healthcare professionals globally for their opinions on antibiotics, antibiotic resistance, antimicrobial resistance, infections and the overuse of antibiotics in healthcare and animal farming. Read the M3 Pulse results here!

Antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development today, according to WHO. Antibiotic resistance, also known as the silent pandemic, is now one of the leading causes of death globally. In the beginning of 2022, The Lancet published a study estimating that in 2019, 4.95 million deaths were caused by illnesses in which antimicrobial resistance (AMR) played a part. Of those, 1.27 million people died from infections caused directly by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.


By analysing common pathogens (bacteria, viruses, and other micro-organisms that cause diseases), and the rise of antibiotic resistance, it was estimated in 2016 that deaths from AMR could surge up to 10 million each year by 2050, at a cumulative cost to global economic output of $100 trillion USD*

antibiotic resistance

What is antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) are sometimes used interchangeably, however there are differences between them.

Antimicrobial is an umbrella term for medicines that are used to prevent and treat infections in humans, animals, and plants, and includes:

  • Antibiotics: used to fight bacterial infections in people and animals
  • Antivirals: help the body fight off certain viruses that can cause disease
  • Antifungals: used to treat fungal infections
  • Antiparasitics: used to manage and treat infections caused by parasites, in humans and animals

Antimicrobial resistance, or in short AMR, is a term that describes what happens when bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites evolve and no longer respond to antimicrobial medicines. This makes it increasingly difficult to treat infections.


Antibiotic resistance is a more specific term that describes what happens when bacteria specifically change in response to the use of antibiotics. It is the bacteria, not humans or animals, that becomes antibiotic-resistant, which makes the infections that those bacteria cause harder to treat than those caused by non-resistant bacteria.


As a result of drug resistance, antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines become ineffective which increases the risk of disease spread, severe illness, and death.

antimicrobial resistance and overuse of antibiotics

Opinions on antibiotic resistance from over 4155 healthcare professionals

Last month, 4155 HCP panel members globally shared their opinions in our M3 Pulse survey about antibiotic resistance. We asked for their views on antibiotic resistance and the overuse of antibiotics in farming as well as in human medicine. Here’s how they answered!

The majority of respondents think that antibiotics are overused in healthcare and animal farming and that we need more research and tighter restrictions to mitigate against the consequences. However, 29% of respondents chose “other” as their answer and provided a more in-depth explanation about their views on antibiotic resistance. Frequently raised points from these respondents included:

  • Many healthcare professionals think tighter antibiotic restrictions aren’t the answer. Instead, they believe that the focus should be on raising public awareness and implementing better education for healthcare professionals on how to better use and prescribe antibiotics.

  • Some argue that we need to implement global guidelines that are more accurate, and regularly updated that support the use of antibiotics in both healthcare and animal farming, whilst considering the implications of increased antibiotic resistance. This is especially relevant in developing countries where guidelines and regulations for antibiotic use differ.

  • Another opinion is that more research should be focused on probiotics and other natural treatment options.

  • Concerns were also raised about telehealth prescriptions and how individual consumption can be controlled when patients self-medicate with antibiotics.

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  • 20% of respondents believe that further research into new antibiotic treatments for infections resistant to antibiotics is required.
  • 18% claim that antibiotics are still being overused in human medicine and usage should be restricted significantly.
  • 17% think that tighter regulation of the use of antibiotics in all aspects of medicine is required.
  • 15% stated that antibiotic use in farming should be reduced globally.
  • Only 1% believe that antibiotics are not overused.
infections

Why is overuse of antibiotics in healthcare and animal farming a global issue?

The World Health Organisation has announced that “antibiotic resistance is putting the achievements of modern medicine at risk.” and have declared AMR as one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity.

Antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines are becoming increasingly ineffective as drug-resistance spreads globally and the development of new antimicrobial treatments is inadequate to address the mounting threat of AMR.

WHO on the overuse of antibiotics in healthcare and animal farming:

“A growing list of infections – such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning, gonorrhoea, and foodborne diseases – are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat, as antibiotics become less effective.

Where antibiotics can be bought for human or animal use without a prescription, the emergence and spread of resistance is made worse. Similarly, in countries without standard treatment guidelines, antibiotics are often over-prescribed by health workers and veterinarians and over-used by the public.

Without urgent action, we are heading for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can once again kill.

When infections can no longer be treated by first-line antibiotics, more expensive medicines must be used. A longer duration of illness and treatment, often in hospitals, increases health care costs as well as the economic burden on families and societies. “

What do you think about antibiotic resistance and the overuse of antibiotics in healthcare and animal farming? Share your comments in the section below and register for free to participate in our next M3 Pulse survey!

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Join the largest panel of healthcare professionals around the world If you are interested in polygenic risk scores, common complex disease and risk assessment , we want to hear about your experiences and opinions.

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