Modern medicine is built on the ability to control infections. Procedures like surgery or chemotherapy are only possible because we are able to prevent and control infections. However, bacterial and viral infections are increasingly becoming drug-resistant. An eye-opening statistic: 20-30 percent of bacteria are currently drug-resistant. These alarming numbers highlight just how important research and innovation are to treating and preventing antibiotic-resistant infections.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has called antibiotic resistance one of the biggest threats to global health. Doctors, researchers and clinicians are now planning for a post-antibiotic world. And that reality is coming much sooner than we think. By 2050, more people will die from drug-resistant organisms than from cancer. World Antimicrobial Awareness Week is a WHO initiative taking place from November 18-24 2020, with a goal of sensitizing the public to the threat of infectious diseases and preventing the emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistant infections.
“If we can’t control infections during a surgery like a hip replacement, it means a patient wouldn’t have a functional hip anymore or that doctors wouldn’t be able to replace a hip for a patient in need.” says Dr. Dao Nguyen, clinician-scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC).
Dr. Dao Nguyen is a clinician-scientist at the RI-MUHC and a researcher with the McGill Interdisciplinary Initiative in Infection and Immunity (MI4) . Her big dream is to create an Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Centre, a multidisciplinary project that would bring together researchers, physicians and clinicians from different fields to work towards preventing a post-antibiotic world. A world without effective antibiotics could mean treatments become more complicated, longer, or some that may not work at all.
“Let’s say you accidentally cut yourself. Right now, you can get treatment from a topical cream or take antibiotic pills to cure the infection in a few days,” says Dr. Nguyen. “With antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it wouldn’t be treated as easily and the infection could spread requiring an amputation.”
The MUHC Foundation is raising $20 million to launch the Antimicrobial Resistance Centre which would allow researchers to share ideas to identify the most pressing issues and address antibiotic resistance. The AMR Centre will research diagnostics, prevention, innovative projects and educational awareness bringing together the scientific community of the MUHC and elsewhere with the common goal of preventing a post-antibiotic world. By dreaming big and investing in a safer future together, we can change the course of medicine and save lives.