Antimicrobials and antibacterials revolutionised medicine from the mid 20th century after Alexander Fleming made his amazing discovery of identifying penicillin. But antibiotics themselves are not new, indeed traces of tetracycline (an antibiotic still in use today) were found in skeletons from ancient Nubians (350-550 AD) and so for as long as antibiotics have existed, so too has bacterial resistance, but not on the scale that the world is seeing today.
Penicillin was heralded as a miracle drug – as indeed it was and still is – and was heavily used in WW2 to treat Allied troops, despite Fleming’s warning that overuse could lead to mutant bacteria. Use of antibiotics in animals first came about post-war when a British-American biologist Thomas Jukes discovered that in-feed use of tetracycline could help advance the growth of chickens. By the mid 1950s, Fleming’s warning had become a self-fulfilling prophecy as resistance to penicillin in humans had gradually built up due to the wide availability of the drug. By the turn of the millennium the world was aware of the prevalence of antibiotic resistance with the WHO publishing a global strategy for its containment as early as 2001. By 2015, the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) was adopted at the 68th World Health Assembly in Geneva.
In 2016 ReAct Europe published a development dialogue paper in which it concluded that there is no single ‘silver bullet’ to address AMR. It said what was needed was an adaptive, multi-pronged approach that operates across the sustainable development goals (SGDs), involving many stakeholders. It claimed that the world could not just look to the biomedical or health sectors for solutions, that AMR is a systems failure requiring a cross-sectoral response.
New Scientist article on historical bacteria:
Antibiotic resistance found in the guts of ancient mummies
Review of Evidence on Antimicrobial Resistance and Animal Agriculture in Developing Countries:
AMR and agriculture in developing countries
Nature: International weekly journal of science
Antibiotic resistance is ancient
Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) VARSS report
2014 UK-VARSS UK Veterinary Antibiotic Resistance and Sales Surveillance Report
European Medicines Agency (EMA) Sixth ESVAC report
Sales of Veterinary antimicrobial agents in 29 European countries in 2014
European Centre for Disease Prevention & Control (ECDC) and EFSA Journal
The European Union summary report on trends and sources of zoonoses, zoonotic agents and food-borne outbreaks in 2014