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Antimicrobial stewardship: nurses' critical role in preventing antimicrobial resistance

28 October 2021
5 min read
Volume 30 · Issue 19

Although antimicrobial medicines, including antibiotics have been hailed the wonder drug discovery of the 20th century, their misuse and inappropriate use create drug-resistant pathogens, a phenomenon known as antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Recognised since the discovery and commercialisation of penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928, AMR happens naturally when infection-causing organisms evolve ways to survive the effects of treatments (Aminov, 2010). The impact of AMR on humans and animals is so severe, that the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it is one of the top 10 threats facing humanity today (WHO, 2021).

Infections caused by antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are very difficult and occasionally impossible to treat with antibiotics. This problem is increasing because some pathogens are now known to be resistant to all our current antibiotics. This means that treatments for these infections must involve more toxic drugs taken over longer periods (WHO, 2015). In terms of the patient experience, these treatments not only often take longer to complete, but also involve unpleasant side-effects and potentially much longer hospital stays. In some cases, prolonged resistance may lead to extensive surgery and limb amputation (HM Government, 2019).

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