Lurching from one pandemic to another? From the frontlines of antibiotic resistance during Covid-19

A new report of case studies published to coincide with World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2020 gives a platform to people living with drug-resistant infections, those that have survived them, and to the clinicians contending with them, capturing their unique views on the Covid-19 pandemic. 

From the frontlines of the pandemic in the UK, US, South Africa, and India, AMR Voices, provides a first-hand look at how the real-life experience and challenges of AMR collide with the realities of Covid-19. Published by Nesta Challenges – home to the Longitude Prize, an £8m prize to accelerate the development of a point-of-care diagnostic test that will conserve antibiotics for future generations – the report is a warning shot that without action on the slow-moving pandemic of AMR, more lives will be lost and the fundamentals of modern medicine will break down.

One contributor’s experience tells us that just as patients have had to think twice about visiting a hospital this year to avoid the risk of contracting Covid-19, people are also acting the same way to avoid drug-resistant bacterial infections.

Key voices and stories from the report:

  • Dr. Ranj Singh (UK), NHS Emergency Paediatrician and TV presenter, fears the day he will have to tell the parents of a sick child that they’ve run out of treatment options.
  • Ronda Windsor (UK), who lives with a chronic drug-resistant UTI, speaks about the toll the pandemic has taken on her mental health, while also limiting her access to her doctor and essential antibiotics .
  • Dr. Abdul Ghafur (India) tells of his turn of fate, hospitalised as a Covid-19 patient, and of his fears of being ventilated because of his increased exposure to a hospital-acquired infection.
  • Vanessa Carter (South Africa) laments that her government has not treated AMR as the public health emergency that it is.
  • Mary Millard (US) reminds us that Sepsis already kills 99,000 per year in the US, putting Covid-19 into perspective.

Daniel Berman, Global Health Lead, Nesta Challenges, said, “Long before Covid-19, antimicrobial resistance was escalating and upending the lives of thousands of people each year. For the people profiled in AMR Voices, life-threatening resistance to antibiotics is not some dystopian fiction, it is something that they have already faced or are still facing today. Covid-19 has made their challenge even more intense. While shining a light on how Covid-19 has impacted them, we also want to challenge readers to ask themselves: can’t we start addressing antimicrobial resistance before it becomes an all-consuming crisis?”

“The all hands on deck battle against Covid-19 needs to be replicated to address antimicrobial resistance. This includes better strategies for developing new antibiotics, new and innovative treatment techniques, continued improvement in stewardship, infection control and hygiene, and accelerated investment towards the development of new rapid diagnostics.”

Eva Garmendia, Project Coordinator, Uppsala Antibiotic Center, Uppsala University, Sweden, said, “In today’s world where two big global health issues, Covid-19 and antimicrobial resistance (AMR), coincide it is of utmost importance to work to understand how they might interact with each other. This report, with first-hand experiences by patients and doctors, focuses on exactly this and encourages us to think more than ever about the need for sustainable solutions that will keep AMR at bay. Are we finally ready to take action and protect future patients from resistant infections?”

Diane Flayhart, Global Program Leader, Antimicrobial Resistance Fighter Coalition, US, said, “Bringing forward the voice of the patient is critical to understanding the impact of antimicrobial resistance.  It is not just numbers, publications, and policy – it is the impact that these drug-resistant infections have on individuals and their families as well as the risk to modern medicine that we all utilise and rely on today.”


This article first appeared in the Longitude Prize Blog.


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