Earlier this month, HCWH Europe hosted a webinar about the environmental impact of AMR. The recording of the webinar is now available below or on the HCWH Europe website (along with links to the presentations) here.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) develops when microorganisms (which include bacteria, parasites, viruses, and fungi) become resistant to antimicrobial drugs, leading to treatment becoming ineffective, infections persisting, and an increased risk of infections spreading.
Each year, antimicrobial-resistant infections lead to 25,000 deaths in the European Union, 700,000 deaths worldwide, and to annual costs of at least €1.5 billion in the EU alone. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes antibiotic resistance as the single greatest challenge in terms of infectious diseases today, which represents a threat for both rich and poor countries.
AMR is mostly caused by the inappropriate use and overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals, but increasingly evidence shows that waste pharmaceuticals from excretion and disposal, including effluent from the pharmaceutical manufacturing process, is a concern in the development of resistance.
Research studies suggest that particular environments are “hot-spots” in which antimicrobial resistance can emerge, such as areas in which there are poor pharmaceutical manufacturing practices, where expired or unused drugs are disposed of in an inappropriate way (i.e. by flushing them down the toilet or sink, or disposing them in household rubbish), and areas in which pharmaceuticals are used for aquaculture or agriculture.
To date, most of the national and global actions in place to tackle the spread of AMR don’t take into account this aspect of antimicrobials released into the environment.