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WAAW 2022: antimicrobial resistance, one of the biggest threats to human health

21 November 2021

Globally, the incidence of multidrug-resistant bacterial infections is increasing. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has become an endemic and widespread problem that affects both high- and low-income countries (LMICs).

The World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) occurs every year between 18 and 24 November. It is an annual World Health Organization (WHO) initiative to raise awareness of as a global concern, and advocate best practises to minimise its spread. The theme of WAAW 2022 is "Preventing antimicrobial resistance together".

AMR occurs when microorganisms like bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites become partially or completely resistant to antimicrobials that were once effective. Antimicrobial-resistant microorganisms are the source of infections that are difficult or impossible to treat, resulting in extended suffering or even death. This has devastating impacts on human lives and far-reaching consequences for our economy. Over-prescription and misuse/overuse of antimicrobials are accelerating the global spread of AMR.

Infected individuals with resistant bacteria recover more slowly, fail to respond to therapy, and are more likely to die than infected patients with non-resistant germs. According to the WHO, AMR caused an estimated 1.27 million deaths in 2019.

Without effective antimicrobials, previously preventable infectious diseases could spread and no longer be treatable. We could return to a “pre-antibiotic era”, in which organ transplants, chemotherapy, intensive care, and other medical procedures would not be possible.

Disease prevention is key to combat AMR, and vaccines could not only prevent or reduce life-threatening diseases and thus decrease health care costs and sequelae following infection but could also reduce the use of antibiotics and antimicrobial medicines.

Vaccines are an effective defence against AMR because they not only reduce prevalence of the resistant pathogen but also reduce the need for antibiotics by protecting against infectious illnesses. Vaccines are used preventatively, reducing the number of cases of infectious disease, and thus the need for antibiotics, and the emergence of AMR.

European Vaccine Initiative (EVI) is actively contributing to the global effort against AMR by driving innovative technologies and coordinating projects like PrIMAVeRa, focused on the development of a computational platform aiming to combat AMR. Currently, there are no data-driven tools to predict the health and economic outcomes of vaccination on the reduction of AMR. Hence, PrIMAVeRa project is key to develop a comprehensive pan-European data repository and an AI-based tool to estimate the impact of vaccination. The outcomes of PrIMAVeRa will empower policy makers to invest in vaccines with the highest impact on the reduction of AMR.

AMR is often referred as the silent pandemic. Let’s not let it be forgotten and work together collaboratively through a One Health approach, because only then we can leverage the power of vaccines in “Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together”.

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