Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)
Earlier this summer, the European Union launched a comprehensive action plan to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a crisis which is being heralded as one of the biggest public health dangers facing the world.
The current AMR crisis stems from a number of factors, particularly the overuse of antibiotics in both human and animal health, causing bacteria to become resistant to treatment.
It is currently responsible for 25,000 deaths and €1.5 billion in economic losses every year in the EU. Experts have predicted that by 2050, drug-resistant infections could cause global economic damage on a par with the 2008 financial crisis.
Economist Jim O’Neill, who was charged by David Cameron with finding answers to one of the most pressing problems in the world today, says the global financial cost of no action would be the loss of 10 million lives a year by 2050 and £69tn ($100tn) a year.
Lack of awareness remains a key cause for the rise in antimicrobial resistance. According to the EU report, 57 per cent of Europeans do not know that antibiotics are ineffective against viruses and 44 per cent fail to understand that they are ineffective for treating cold and flu. This places pressures on clinicians to prescribe in inappropriate circumstances, furthering the AMR problem.
The development of new solutions to unlock this complex challenge is vital, and new, innovative technologies are key to helping to create new ways of tackling AMR that vastly enhance the current approach.
The EU’s new One Health Action Plan contains specific focus on the urgent need for diagnostic interventions to prevent the spread of AMR. The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm for proposing new legislation, has also welcomed the development of novel diagnostics to help detect drug-resistant pathogens.
Although no single action alone will provide an adequate solution- mobile diagnostic tools like Novarum’s specialist smartphone readers are key in stepping up the war against AMR. Mobile technology creates a novel, rapid and reliable diagnostic solution – crucial for quickly differentiating between bacterial and viral infections and to identify AMR.
Novarum’s leaders expect, that within a decade, doctors will be required to centrally document and justify each prescription for the most crucial antibiotics; and similar traceability will be needed to support any use in food production, as the industry shifts from prophylactic to responsive use.
Novarum™ smartphone solutions allow users to read and share results of diagnostic tests using nothing more than a smartphone. Its technology can be used by anyone, to connect with medical professionals or field-workers with minimal user-training.
Through tailoring treatment to the nature of the infectious pathogen and its resistance pattern, mobile diagnostics can help to reduce the unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics.
Mobile’s potential to transform and enable Point of Care Testing (POCT) means that healthcare professionals could quickly identify those who are carrying an infection and deliver multiple benefits. These include managing prescriptions, delivering tailored treatments for bacterial infections (removing the need for broad-based antibiotic treatment), and limiting infection outbreaks.
Mobile diagnostics also has the potential to prevent irresponsible prescription of antibiotics by medical professionals – providing proof and accountability that will ensure only appropriate patients have been prescribed antibiotics.
Data sharing portals can also be incorporated, meaning results are rapidly stored and shared. This enables tracking of infection outbreaks and enables more proactive decision making during future epidemics.
The EU action plan also highlights how the AMR threat to public health and economic burden is even greater in developing countries. Novarum™ smartphone readers have pioneered the way for POCT to be used outside of the laboratory- meaning this testing process can be carried out in remote locations, such as a rural village in sub-Saharan Africa. The potential implications of inaccurate results are significant, with the risk of highly contagious viruses and diseases being able to spread rapidly within communities.
As the European Commission and other global bodies move forward in developing new strategies to tackle this complex challenge, increasing a focus on innovation and collaboration will be key to ensuring we have a deepening pool of new technologies to draw upon in the battle to identify, track, and ultimately halt the spread of AMR.
We hope you enjoyed my blog. If you’d like to discuss how Novarum mobile reader technology is used to diagnose infectious disease in the field, do not hesitate to contact me
Dr Neil Polwart, Novarum DX™ Founder, and BBI Group™, Head of Mobile
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the company.