Antibiotics & You: OHBP work around antibiotics, AMR & World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2021

The One Health concept recognises that the health of humans, the environment, and animals are closely interdependent and interconnected. Global issues such as food and water security, climate change, and environmental pollution are key examples of One Health issues at the interface between environmental, human, and animal health. These issues span across multiple sectors – and are highly complex and interconnected. Recently One Health has been drawn into sharp focus with the coronavirus pandemic.

However, another One Health pandemic is on the rise – antimicrobial resistance or AMR. This issue was highlighted in Healthcare Without Harm’s recent blog Antimicrobial resistance – the silent pandemic in the spotlight, but is also the focus of an international public awareness campaign by the World Health Organisation – World Antimicrobial Awareness Week. Each year around the world governments, NGOs, healthcare organisations, industrial bodies, environment agencies, and researchers take part in co-ordinated events to increase public awareness and understanding of the public health and environmental threat posed by the increasing spread of AMR.

AMR Facts:

  • AMR is a process where bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics.
  • AMR can occur through people not completing a full course of antibiotics, and be spread through human contact.
  • AMR can also occur in the environment (for example) through the presence of antibiotic compounds in wastewaters and surface waters, which increase the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance genes in bacterial communities (leading to AMR).
  • AMR is impacting healthcare around the world. It is making infections harder to treat, resulting in routine procedures such as hip replacements and caesarean sections becoming more risky and harder to recover from.
  • Without action, AMR could cause up to 10 million deaths a year by 2050.

Five ways to keep antibiotics working:

  1. Always follow the instructions on the label when taking antibiotics.
  2. Finish the full prescribed course of antibiotics – even if you feel better part way through.
  3. Never share your antibiotic tablets with others.
  4. Never flush the tablets down the toilet or sink, or discard in the bin.
  5. Always speak with a pharmacist or GP – you may not need an antibiotic.

Today, on European Antibiotic Awareness Day, the OHBP would like to highlight work it has contributed to in progressing the case to keep antibiotics working and reduce the spread of AMR.

In Scotland, the One Health approach has been demonstrated through the formation of the One Health Breakthrough Partnership (OHBP). By bringing together key regional and national stakeholders across the environment, healthcare, and water sectors, the OHBP has developed a primary workstream focussed on pharmaceuticals in the environment (PiE) – a globally important public health and environmental issue. This issue is inextricably linked to AMR, as the presence of antibiotics (a type of pharmaceutical) in the environment may result in development and spread of AMR.

Some of our OHBP outputs directly relate to AMR – these include raising awareness of PiE and promoting good medicine stewardship of all pharmaceuticals (including antibiotics). Check out our work with Talking Medicines and the GetSmart Public Awareness Campaign (link). And you can see our video Get Smart with Antibiotics below:

And recently, OHBP co-founder Sharon Pfleger has contributed to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s sustainability policies – which focuses on reducing the environmental harm from medicines through improving medicine use and waste (among other priority areas).

Overall, through knowledge exchange, cross-sector engagement, and research and innovation, the OHBP has established a hub of expertise in the PiE field that is committed to generating positive One Health outcomes. This includes the environmental and human health impact of AMR – and as a result is a significant consideration to the OHBP. We will continue raising awareness of AMR and promoting good medicine stewardship with our partners, as we work to create a “non-toxic” environment.

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