World AMR Awareness Week (WAAW)* is observed on 18-24 November every year with the aim of improving awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and encouraging best practices for the responsible usage of antimicrobials. This year’s theme “Preventing antimicrobial resistance together” highlights the importance of cross-sectoral collaboration for tackling AMR. It serves as an important reminder that sectors such as healthcare, agriculture, and waste management all have a crucial role to play in mitigating the impacts of AMR. It also highlights that key priorities should include improved antimicrobial stewardship and investment in novel therapies, says GlobalData.
AMR is the process by which pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites develop resistance to antimicrobial drugs they were originally susceptible to. It occurs when certain selection pressures promote the survival and replication of resistant strains of the pathogen. This increases the risk of persistent infections, transmission to others, severe illness, disability, and death.
Fiona Chisholm, Associate Director of Infectious Diseases at GlobalData, comments, “AMR is a natural phenomenon that has been observed throughout the history of antimicrobial drug usage, but in recent years it has reached critical levels. This is attributable to factors such as overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in humans and animals, as well as inadequate infection prevention and control.”
As a result of AMR, many infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis are becoming much more difficult to treat. AMR is now a leading cause of mortality worldwide, with around 5 million deaths each year associated with drug-resistant bacterial infections alone.
Chisholm continues, “With many established treatments becoming less effective, R&D investment into novel antimicrobials should represent a top priority for governments and industry. However, developing a novel antimicrobial is a risky prospect with limited financial incentives. Consequently, drug developers are often deterred from investing in the development of these therapies.”
According to GlobalData Pharmaceutical Intelligence Center’s pipeline drugs database, there are around 929 antibiotics and 182 antifungals in active development (from Discovery stage to the Pre-registration stage of development). However, there is a concerning lack of innovation among the pipeline drugs. The majority of these pipeline agents employ established mechanisms of action, which are unlikely to be highly effective in the treatment of drug-resistant infections.
Chisholm concludes, “Alleviating the impacts of AMR represents one of the greatest challenges facing humanity. WAAW provides an important opportunity to promote antimicrobial stewardship across a range of sectors and serves as a reminder of the urgent need to increase investment in the development of novel antimicrobials.”
*Previously the campaign was known as World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW). The campaign was re-branded as World AMR Awareness Week (WAAW) in June 2023.