What Causes Antimicrobial Resistance

The increasing ability for a wide variety of microorganisms to resist efforts to control them is a global health problem that must be proactively combated by medical practitioners around the world to avoid a global health catastrophe.

Microorganism floating on dark background surrounded by antibiotic, antiviral, and antifungal pills representing antimicrobial resistance.

What Is Antimicrobial Resistance?

It’s essential to define ‘antimicrobial’ how it’s different from an antibiotic. An antimicrobial is any substance that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi, or parasites. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) refers to the ability of these microorganisms to resist the effects of drugs that were previously effective in treating infections caused by these microorganisms.

One of the main drivers of AMR is the overuse and misuse of antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics. When these drugs are used too often or inappropriately, microorganisms can become resistant to them over time through genetic mutations or the transfer of resistance genes from one microorganism to another, which is what causes antibiotic resistance.

When microorganisms become resistant to antibiotics, these drugs are no longer able to kill or control the growth of these organisms. The inability to control these infections can lead to longer illnesses, more severe symptoms, and even death. AMR is a threat to global public health, with implications regardless of age, gender, or geographic location.

Antimicrobial Resistance Facts

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when a bacteria, fungi, virus, or parasite is stronger than the antibiotic, antifungal, antiviral, or antiparasitic agent designed to control it or kill it.  

  • Fact: AMR occurs naturally through genetic changes in people, animals, food, and plants, but is sped up by overuse and misuse of antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs.

  • Fact: Poor sanitation, contaminated water, and poor hygiene practices aid in the transmission of AMR in both animals and humans. 

  • Fact: AMR makes it increasingly difficult to treat illnesses and diseases and to perform significant medical procedures that require antibiotics to reduce infection.

  • Fact: AMR can affect anyone at any age, anywhere in the world. 

  • Fact: Bacteria don’t have to be resistant to all antibiotics to be dangerous; bacteria that become resistant to even one antibiotic become much more dangerous.

What Are Antimicrobials?

Antimicrobials are the term for a variety of substances that are used to kill or inhibit the growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. They can be classified into several categories, including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiparasitics.

These are just a few examples of the many different types of antimicrobials available. It's important to note that not all antimicrobials are effective against all types of microorganisms. The overuse and misuse of these drugs is a major contributing factor toward general antimicrobial resistance:

Six antimicrobial drawings, including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, antiparasitics, disinfectants, antiseptics, representing AMR.

penicillin, amoxicillin, erythromycin, and ciprofloxacin

Six antimicrobial drawings, including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, antiparasitics, disinfectants, antiseptics, representing AMR.

acyclovir, oseltamivir, and remdesivir

Six antimicrobial drawings, including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, antiparasitics, disinfectants, antiseptics, representing AMR.

fluconazole, ketoconazole, and itraconazole

Six antimicrobial drawings, including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, antiparasitics, disinfectants, antiseptics, representing AMR.

chloroquine, mebendazole, and ivermectin

Six antimicrobial drawings, including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, antiparasitics, disinfectants, antiseptics, representing AMR.

bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and alcohol

Six antimicrobial drawings, including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, antiparasitics, disinfectants, antiseptics, representing AMR.

iodine, chlorhexidine, and hydrogen peroxide

Large bacterial cell rising over an image of planet earth on dark background representing antimicrobial resistance.

Why is Antimicrobial Resistance a Global Concern?

In order to achieve optimal global health, all people, animals, plants, and ecosystems must have the resources they need to ensure proper sanitation and hygiene while practicing appropriate methods for distributing and taking antibiotics and antifungals. Without inclusive proper health measures, there will be negative effects on public health, food security, and economic development. Effective prevention and tools are the only answer to AMR’s destruction. 

Diseases and Conditions AMR Impacts

Here are just a few examples of the diseases and conditions that can be impacted by antimicrobial resistance. It's important to use antimicrobial drugs judiciously to help preserve their effectiveness in treating infectious diseases.

  • Bacterial infections: AMR can reduce the effectiveness of antibiotics in treating bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and sepsis.

  • Viral infections: While antibiotics are not effective against viruses, AMR can still impact viral infections by reducing the effectiveness of antiviral drugs, such as those used to treat SARS-CoV-2, Influenza, RSV, HIV, and hepatitis C.

  • Fungal infections: AMR can reduce the effectiveness of antifungal drugs in treating fungal infections, such as candidiasis and aspergillosis.

  • Parasitic infections: AMR can reduce the effectiveness of antiparasitic drugs in treating parasitic infections, such as malaria and schistosomiasis.

The Connection Between Antibiotics and Antimicrobial Resistance

Since their invention, germs have been evolving to build a tolerance against the antimicrobial drugs. When the same antimicrobial is overused in humans or animals, the parasite, disease, or virus isn’t as strongly affected or killed off due to this built up tolerance. Over time, this results in antimicrobial resistance as germs are not effectively killed when combated with antimicrobials. 

Learn more about antibiotic resistance
Female science professional holds a Biomeme test and platform representing One Health in a dark background.

How Biomeme is Addressing Antimicrobial Resistance

Addressing antimicrobial resistance is key to improving global health. One of our core missions at Biomeme is the pursuit of One Health, the concept of a collaborative approach to communal, regional, national, and global levels, that all parts of an existing ecosystem are equal and must be healthy at each level to be sustainable. Combating antimicrobial resistance and pursuing One Health are inextricably linked. 

That is why we advocate strongly for the responsible, discerning use of antimicrobials and antibiotics as the first fundamental step that healthcare providers must take when prescribing solutions to patients. We also know that giving communities the help, resources, and education they need to use their best judgment is key. We provide information and solutions for the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials so that populations can make the most educated decisions regarding their defense measures against infectious diseases and catastrophic health issues. 

And we offer defense against the world’s most detrimental infectious diseases with real-time, rapid testing solutions to take the proactive steps needed to stay ahead of AMR. Our Host Response Test (HR-B/V) offers the reliable, detailed results practitioners need to determine a viral or bacterial infection, offering them the data-driven information to determine how to treat a patient.  With these tests, providers are better able to understand what should and should not be prescribed to patients, mitigating the overuse of antimicrobials in this context. 

Other Organizations and Programs Committed to Combating Antimicrobial Resistance

Biomeme works in conjunction with WHO, the CDC, the FDA, and other federal organizations to achieve One Health. Without these collaborations, a better global health would be impossible. 

  • CDC: The CDC’s main goal is to mitigate infections before they even exist or impact populations. They do so by educating the public with state of the art research in best practices to avoid spreading infectious diseases. They also advise practitioners in the use of antimicrobials so that populations don’t build a tolerance.

  • WHO: WHO implements innovative research and investments to combat AMR. They create new medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics to take proactive steps in combating AMR while understanding how it occurs and how it affects worldwide populations.

  • FDA: The FDA takes precautions with food and drugs to ensure overuse of antimicrobials is mitigated while also promoting the responsible use of antimicrobials and the development of new tools and technologies that will allow the food and drug regulations to stay on point and ahead of AMR issues. 

Reflecting on the AMR Challenge and Our Answer to Reducing Unnecessary Use of Antibiotics

With the results of the AMR Challenge quickly approaching, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on our amazing team’s...