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The medical arms race: overcoming microbial resistance

The antimicrobial resistance organisms are developing, and our bid to counter that with new ways of controlling them, is like an arms race – one we stand a better chance of winning if we use the antimicrobials that are still effective, more carefully.

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Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a complex problem affecting human, animal, plant and environmental health. Antimicrobials play a critical role in farming: resistant microorganisms can develop in our food chain, moving between animals, humans and environments. Disturbing when you consider the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates global use of antimicrobials in the livestock sector alone will rise by 67 % by 2030 to 105 596 tons. The imperative to make people aware of the dangers of the misuse of antibiotics, and other antimicrobials, is behind the WHO’s annual World Antimicrobial Awareness Week. This special episode of CORDIScovery, timed to coincide with the Week, invites three guests to share the work they are doing to win the race between the resistance microbes develop, and the ways we have to control them. How do you target the bacteria you want to kill off without wreaking havoc on the colonies of ‘good’ bacteria that are so vital to our well-being? And if a bacterium has evolved to work around the impact of an antibiotic, can we tweak the chemistry between them to render the bacterium vulnerable again? Fredrik Almqvist, co-founder of QureTech Bio AB, explains the work the QTB4AMR project is doing to change the chemical relationship between an antibiotic and its target bacteria. The weird and wonderful world of soil microbes, their relation to the plant roots around them and the ways in which they communicate, could give rise to a new generation of biopesticides. Ana Bejarano explains how her RhizoTalk project is looking for ways to increase that possibility. How did farming become so systemically dependent on antibiotics and is it too late to turn that around? Nicolas Fortané, who coordinates the ROADMAP project, takes a look at the problem from a social science perspective. ‘Spread awareness, stop resistance’ is the title the WHO has given to this year’s World Antimicrobial Awareness Week. Hear what our guests are doing to do just that!

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CORDIScovery, CORDIS, QTB4AMR, RhizoTalk, ROADMAP, antimicrobial resistance, farming, World Health Organization, bacteria, pesticides