Antimicrobial resistance

What is Antimicrobial resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of a microorganism to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it. As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.[1] The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described AMR as an increasingly serious threat to global public health. [2]

What causes AMR:

Although antibiotic resistance develops naturally in bacteria, human actions can increase resistance developing and spreading. This can happen:

  • When health professionals over prescribe antibiotics,
  • When antibiotics are prescribed for a viral infection,
  • When people don’t take antibiotics as directed e.g. don’t finish the course of antibiotics,
  • Due to poor hygiene and a lack of infection prevention and control e.g. not washing hands properly
  • Due to people travelling around the world, spreading resistant bacteria.[3]

AMR in China:

Sadly, the crisis of antimicrobial resistance is worsening and has become a major public safety problem in China.[4] To try to overcome this problem, China has issued a 2016-2020 One Health National Action Plan to Contain Antimicrobial Resistance with 14 ministries to ensure a clear multi-sectoral approach.[5] However, it is not only humans that can have problems with AMR but farm animals too. Farm animals in northeast China are becoming more resistant to common antimicrobial drugs.[6]

AMR in the EU:

AMR is responsible for an estimated 33,000 deaths per year in the EU and it costs the EU EUR 1.5 billion per year in healthcare costs and productivity losses.[7] In fact, the health burden of infections due to bacteria with AMR in the EU/EEA population is comparable to that of influenza, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined. AMR proportions have been increasing across the EU/EEA since 2005 and currently, close to one in five infections in the EU/EEA is due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In some countries, like Romania and Greece, about 40% of infections are due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. [8]


[1] World Health Organisation, Antimicrobial resistance, (Consulted 01/10/2019)

[2] World Health Organisation, Antimicrobial resistance in China, (Consulted 01/10/2019)

[3] Australian Government, Antimicrobial resistance, (Consulted 01/10/2019)

[4] (Consulted 02/10/2019)

[5] Ibid. World Health Organisation, Antimicrobial resistance in China, (Consulted 01/10/2019)

[6] Emiliano Rodríguez Mega, Nature, Alarm as antimicrobial resistance surges among chickens, pigs and cattle (Consulted 01/10/2019)

[7] European Commission, EU Action on Antimicrobial Resistance, (Consulted 01/10/2019)

[8] OECD, Antimicrobial Resistance Tackling the Burden in the European Union, (Consulted 02/10/2019)