In 1945, Alexander Fleming received a Nobel Prize for his part in the discovery of penicillin. In his acceptance speech, he gave a warning: he had seen how in his laboratory, incorrect dosing, or use of these medications, can lead to the microbes developing a resistance to it. Almost 80 years later, Fleming’s warning rings to be true, as antimicrobial-resistant infections are becoming more frequent and increasingly difficult to treat.
Antimicrobial medications have revolutionized both veterinary practice and human medicine since their introduction over 75 years ago. When used as prescribed by a medical professional, antimicrobials – including antibacterials, antifungals and antivirals – play an important role in animal and human health.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when microbes like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites develop a resistance to the drugs we use to treat them. The threat of antimicrobial resistance is that infections (such as pneumonia, strep throat or infections associated with minor injuries) could become untreatable. It may be a scary to think that these medications we commonly use might stop making us better, but there are things you can do that make a real difference and slow the development of AMR.
Avoid getting sick. It might seem obvious, but one of the best ways to prevent AMR in humans and animals is to not need antimicrobials in the first place. Even some basic precautions really add up: wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, keep up to date with vaccinations and practice good first aid when you get hurt.
Take antimicrobials as prescribed. If you do get sick, and your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, following the prescription exactly as prescribed is an essential tool for fighting AMR. Often, you’ll start feeling better partway after you start taking antimicrobials, and it can be tempting to stop taking your medication. Take the medication exactly as prescribed.
Do the same for your animals. Animals get sick exactly like we do, and they can be impacted by AMR just like humans. Keep a close eye on your furry, feathered or scaly friend for changes in behaviour like a lack of energy or appetite or even hiding from you. Take them to the vet if they act differently, and make sure they take any antimicrobials as prescribed, just as if you were the one taking the medicine. Preventing AMR in animals is just as important as preventing it in people.