BLOG: Fight back against antibiotic resistance
25,000 Europeans die each year as a result of antibiotic resistance. By 2050, globally that number could be several million a year, and become one of the most common causes of death.
With widespread antibiotic resistance, diseases that we might associate with the Industrial Revolution, like tuberculosis and typhoid, could once again become commonplace and lethal. Important modern medical procedures such as chemotherapy or an organ transplant would become extremely risky and dangerous, and common bacterial infections such as urinary tract infections and pneumonia may no longer be treatable.
What is antibiotic resistance?
Some bacteria have developed resistance to antibiotics, meaning that they no longer are affected by the drug. When an antibiotic is used and kills off ‘weak’ bacteria, the resistant bacteria survive, reproduce, and can spread among humans and animals.
When antibiotics are overused or misused, perhaps to treat a simple respiratory infection or to put a patient at ease, the ratio of resistant bacteria to weak bacteria increases. This makes antibiotics less effective and potentially completely ineffective.
The problem right now
An antibiotic will do nothing to cure a cold, the flu, or many other common respiratory tract infections caused by viruses. In most cases, bedrest and time are the best healers.
But for many patients in the EU, especially those who pay for GP services, it can feel like a waste of money to consult a doctor only to be told to go home and ‘wait it out’. Doctors are aware of this too, and many feel under pressure to prescribe antibiotics so patients don’t go home ‘empty-handed’. This miscommunication merely perpetuates antibiotic resistance.
Wild Card: Fighting antibiotic resistance
The EIT Health Wild Card programme is about finding the best and brightest ideas to tackle some of Europe’s most pressing public health challenges.
For the FIGHT BACK challenge, we’re asking entrepreneurs to tackle the problem of antibiotic resistance in creative, non-pharmaceutical ways, considering these questions in the process:
- How do we improve communication, compliance and awareness? Primary care providers need to be discouraged from prescribing antibiotics when they are not required. Healthcare systems must support this. Likewise, patients need a greater understanding of how antibiotics work, when they actually need them, and the threat of antibiotic resistance.
- How do we improve diagnostics? While many common infections are caused by viruses, it’s difficult and in most cases impossible to fully determine which microorganism is causing an illness without laboratory testing. However, new technology is allowing for rapid point-of-care diagnosis, allowing doctors to effectively diagnose an illness like the flu during a consultation. Additionally, rapid susceptibility testing of an infecting bacterium would allow the doctor to correctly prescribe an antibiotic that will kill the bacteria even if they are resistant to other drugs. How can this technology be improved and adopted?
- How can we integrate digital solutions? Hospitals and healthcare systems are typically slow to adopt new technological best practice. To combat antibiotic resistance, this must change. Using technology, how can a hospital better monitor the antibiotics it dispenses, track patient outcomes, and improve departmental collaboration?
Interested in taking part? Learn more about the FIGHT BACK challenge.
on behalf of Uppsala Antibiotic Center, Uppsala University.
Uppsala Antibiotic Center (UAC) is a new center for research, education and innovation at Uppsala University. The center aims to bring together, stimulate and support important research on antibiotic resistance from all three disciplinary domains at Uppsala University: Medicine and Pharmacy, Science and Technology, and Humanities and Social Sciences.
ORGANISATION is a core Partner of EIT Health.