Antimicrobial Resistance—A Global Imperative

Posted on by Benjamin J. Park, MD
Benjamin J. Park, MD, Chief, International Infection Control Program
Benjamin J. Park, MD, Chief, International Infection Control Program

Antibiotics were the superhero of the 20th century—saving millions of lives around the world from bacterial infections including pneumonia, foodborne illness, and healthcare associated infections. However, microbes can evolve to resist the effects of drugs that prevent and treat a range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. Antibiotic resistance is a natural phenomenon but it is exacerbated by inappropriate treatment practices, poor regulation of access to medicines, and lack of infection control programs.

The rise of super-resistant organisms threatens the successes of modern medicine, including our ability to treat common infections, and poses a significant economic and public health challenge. In recent years antimicrobial resistance has risen to the forefront of the national public health agenda and is a rising global concern.

More and better data are urgently needed in order to discover the full impact of antibiotic resistance.

Access, Use and Awareness of Medicines
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An April 2015 World Health Organization analysis showed that both overuse and misuse of antimicrobial medicines are common in every region of the world1. Antimicrobial medicines are available without a prescription in many parts of the world.  Fueled by this access, these drugs are often used inappropriately, with self-medication and poor adherence decreasing their efficacy and accelerating the emergence of antimicrobial strains. Public awareness of the appropriate uses of antibiotics is low, and many countries lack standard treatment guidelines for healthcare workers. This creates an environment where overuse and misuse of antimicrobial medicines is likely to increase and make antimicrobial resistance even worse.

What the World is Doing

It is imperative that we take action to combat antibiotic resistance by taking global action. In addition to improving antibiotic use and implementing stewardship programs, we must improve laboratory capacity to guide treatment, develop national and global antimicrobial resistance surveillance systems, and improve infection control to stop resistant infections from spreading.

WHO’s Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance

Antimicrobial resistance is a global threat and requires a collaborative approach involving action by countries and key players around the world. In May 2015, the World Health Assembly endorsed a global action plan on antimicrobial resistance to tackle antimicrobial resistance through five strategic objectives:

  1. Improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance;
  2. Strengthen knowledge through surveillance and research;
  3. Reduce the incidence of infection;
  4. Optimize the use of antimicrobial agents; and
  5. Develop the economic case for sustainable investment that takes account of the needs of all countries, and increase investment in new medicines, diagnostic tools, vaccines and other interventions.

What CDC is Doing

CDC is taking action to combat antimicrobial resistance globally:

  • CDC is joining with other U.S. government agencies and global partners to advance the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA). CDC has multiple roles in shaping and executing GHSA through:
    • Coordination: CDC works closely with other parts of the U.S. government and partner nations to prevent epidemics, detect threats early, and respond rapidly and effectively.
    • Technical support: CDC uses existing investments and relationships in global health to deliver technical expertise and help partner nations meet global health security goals.
  • The Transatlantic Taskforce on Antimicrobial Resistance (TATFAR) aims to improve cooperation between the U.S. and the EU on urgent antimicrobial resistance issues. Learn more about CDC and TATFAR here.
  • CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative is part of a broader national strategy to combat antibiotic resistance and aims to facilitate action in every state, accelerate outbreak detection and prevention innovation, improve antibiotic use, and reduce antibiotic resistance. The initiative provides a comprehensive approach based on the National Strategy for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (CARB).
  • Learn more about CDC’s role in supporting antimicrobial resistance initiatives here.

What You Can Do!

  • Get involved with Get Smart About Antibiotics Week
    • Follow #AntibioticResistance and tune in to a global Twitter chat from 2-4 p.m. EST on November 18
  • Get involved with World Antibiotic Awareness Week
    • As part of its efforts to improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance, CDC has partnered with WHO for the first World Antibiotic Awareness Week (16-22 November 2015).
  • A health threat anywhere is a health threat everywhere. Get informed and share information, like this infographic, with your friends and family.

[1] World Health Organization. Worldwide Country Situation Analysis: Response to Antimicrobial Resistance. ISBN 978 92 4 156494 6.2015

Posted on by Benjamin J. Park, MDTags , , , ,

3 comments on “Antimicrobial Resistance—A Global Imperative”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    Antibiotic resistance has become a major global health issue. I believe that the World Health Assembly’s objective of improving awareness and and understanding of antimicrobial resistance is paramount to tackling the issue. As a nurse, I believe it is so important to reinforce teaching about the proper use of antibiotics and the importance of completing the dose prescribed by the doctor. Many people are under the impression that when symptoms disappear, it is acceptable to stop taking the medication. The lack of knowledge leads to misuse and increases the chance for antimicrobial resistance. Educating patients about the proper use of antibiotics and deterring from self-medication with antibiotics is crucial.

    I am old enough now so that the increasing threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria won’t really effect me. But, I fear greatly for my son, and other members of my family who will suffer the consequences of the continued use of antibiotics to treat even the most casual of symptoms. I watch as more and more powerful drugs are
    prescibed with abandon, by physicians who should know better, but who still listen to their patients, especially the older ones ,who want to leave the office with something, even if they have a cold, or virus, which of course won’t respond to a course of antibiotics. Dr.’s don’t have the time to sit and educate their patients, so it becomes easier to just write the presciption. Unless this ends, given the current research and lack of new drugs, plus FDA regulations and time constraints for any major new discoveries, there will come a time when even our best will no longer work.

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Page last reviewed: May 11, 2021
Page last updated: May 11, 2021
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