19 April 2016

A world without antibiotics: What does our future look like?

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Prior to the invention of antibiotics in the 20th Century, the human race suffered fatally from diseases we today consider to be commonplace. 

Bacterial Meningitis was a common killer with 90% of cases in children being terminal. Those who did survive were left with severe deformities. Today, bacterial meningitis can be cured with a simple course of antibiotics

With the invention of antibiotics in 1928, life expectancy jumped by nearly eight years. Bacterial infections as a cause of death were on the decline.

This Golden Era of Antibiotics did not last long. Doctors warned about the risk of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), soon after their introduction. AMR is when the organisms being treated are able fight back against the antibiotic treatment, deeming it to be ineffective.  

Both the overuse and misuse of antibiotics are two crucial factors linked to the emergence of AMR. Antibiotics as a form of treatment are proving to be less effective as time goes on.

Australia is recorded as being one of the highest prescribers of antibiotics in the OECD region, whilst a whopping one third of the antibiotics are being prescribed inappropriately. 

These stats are hardly surprising given that 65% Australian workers believe taking antibiotics will help them recover from their cold or flus faster. More alarmingly 60% of GPs actually admitted to prescribing antibiotics just to meet patient demands. It is our job as ordinary people to work alongside our healthcare practitioners, veterinarians and agriculturalists to combat the threat of AMR.

This resonated with me following a recent trip to Germany’s utterly breathtaking capital, Berlin. I had the chance participate in an interactive show which took me back in history to a pre-antibiotic era.

Let me tell you, life hundreds of years ago didn’t seem like a pleasant time. Society succumbed to the threat of fatal diseases, which can now be cured with a treatment of antibiotics.  My visit to the Berlin Dungeon made me truly grateful for the wonders of modern medicine. 

This adoration was shifted when I discovered the threat that AMR poses to society. We could find ourselves in the Berlin Dungeon. The World Health Organising stated that by 2050, there will be approximately 10 million deaths, per year, as a result of AMR.

But the world isn’t all doom and gloom. In recent years, Australia has taken several steps to combat the threat of AMR – foremost a series of national, antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) initiatives. A majority of healthcare facilities across Australia have incorporated AMS activities within their daily operations.  

Akolade is hosting its 2nd Annual Forum  on Targeting and Evaluating Antimicrobial Stewardship.  If you are interested in finding out more on Australia’s stance against AMR, come and listen to the likes of Dr Klara Tisocki from the World Health Organisation, on ways to leverage limited resources for AMS. Or Immunologist, Dr Tony Smithyman on an alternative future and world without antibiotics.

 Ashley has lived on Manly beachfront her entire life – she worships the sun and chases it year round. Having recently finished her Bachelor of Business in Portugal’s gorgeous capital, Lisbon (majoring in Marketing), she thought that producing conferences at Akolade would be a great new experience.  Ashley loves her new dinner-time conversation, enlightening people on the threat of antimicrobial stewardship and innovative business models for VET organisations!

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