AMR antimicrobial resistance

Calls for Health Minister to Address Antimicrobial Resistance

A Fine Gael senator has called on the Minister of Health to provide more funding to address growing antimicrobial resistance, linked to 25,000 deaths a year in Europe.

Dublin Senator Catherine Noone also called for wider support to develop new antibiotics capable of resisting superbugs.

In January, a US woman died of a superbug infection resistant to all 26 antimicrobial drugs to treat infection.

The superbug was Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE. A host of Irish hospitals are currently fighting against outbreaks of the illness.

A recent review on AMR commissioned by the UK government estimates that 700,000 people – mainly in poor and middle-income countries – now die every year from AMR-related infections.

Developed regions have not escaped the problem either, with 25,000 deaths a year in Europe.

The Assistant Director-General of the WHO says that without swift action, urgently needed new antibiotics will not be developed in time.

Yet, no major new class of antibiotics has been developed since the late 1980s. Only five new classes of antibiotics have entered the market since 2000.

In the absence of new developments, older antibiotics such as Colistinare back in use. Shelved in the 1970s due to potential renal damage, it is now used as a last-resort to fight against multidrug-resistant bacteria.

However, a mobile Colistin resistance gene – MCR1 – was recently uncovered. It has been found in livestock, water, vegetables and humans infected with E.coli.

Ms Noone also called on support for research that can help tackle the spread of superbugs in Irish hospitals, like that of Professor Colum Dunne of the University of Limerick.

Prof Dunne is a member of a EU-wide Anti-Microbial Coating Innovations consortium. The group is examining ways to limit the spread of deadly drug-resistant bacteria in hospitals.

The project looks to develop coatings fortified with an antimicrobial agent that stops dangerous microorganisms from growing.

The coatings can be as used on textiles such as bedsheets and gowns, and solid surfaces like walls, beds, and tables.

The ECDC estimates that on any given day 80,000 patients have at least one healthcare-associated infection.

Ms Noone says that she wants the HSE to consider support for such projects. “New approaches – such as these coatings- are needed to protect hospital patients and healthcare staff,” she says.

“There is no silver bullet to tackle the challenge of AMR,” she adds. “But clearly any new practice that reduces the unnecessary use of antibiotics must be considered and supported.”

Some positive progress has been made in Ireland in recent years, however.

In early 2016, scientists at Trinity College Dublin developed the world’s first molecular blueprint of Globomycin. It is described as an antibiotic candidate with “significant promise”.

Niall Sargent  is a multimedia journalist and researcher on environmental issues

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