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Lauren George

Science and Innovation Officer

Part of Global Science and Innovation Network

8th July 2014 Houston, USA

Antimicrobial Resistance: A Global Challenge

The following is a guest post by Patrick Hogan, intern at the British Consulate General in Houston. Patrick is a master’s student at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.

While there are many miracles of medicine that have allowed us to live longer, healthier lives, the real hero of modern health care is the discovery of anti-microbial drugs – more commonly known as antibiotics – which have allowed us to fight a range of infections.

I grew up in a family of three boys, so naturally my childhood and adolescence were a constant stream of doctor visits, emergency rooms, and numerous prayers said by my parents. Looking back it was a miracle that my brothers and I survived and I mostly attributed this to a mountain of bandages and my mother’s sheer will to see us reach adulthood, rather than the likely reason: antibiotics.

Unfortunately, these medical marvels are quickly losing their effectiveness as the bacteria they are designed to treat develops a resistance to them. What amplifies the problem is the fact that virtually no new antibiotics are being developed to replace the ones becoming obsolete. The very basis of modern medicine is being undercut by the development of anti-microbial resistance (AMR) and it shows no sign of stopping. The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a report stating that at least 2 million people are diagnosed in the US with antibiotic resistant infections and 23,000 eventually die from them each year. Just two months ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) released the first global report on antibiotic resistance, revealing it as a worldwide threat to public health.

The UK has already banned the use of non-essential antibiotics and antibiotic growth promoters in livestock and they established a five-year AMR strategy to combat the spread of AMR that aims to provide a framework to promote the responsible use of antibiotics and to strengthen research and surveillance capability. Dame Sally Davies, the UK Department of Health’s chief medical officer and a champion in the fight against AMR, has declared the threat of AMR so severe that it should be added to the government’s national risk register of civil emergencies alongside terrorism and climate change. Davies’ warnings have not gone unheard; Prime Minister David Cameron announced on July 2nd that the UK government will be conducting a review into why so few antimicrobial drugs have been introduced in recent years.

However the struggle against antimicrobial-resistant infections needs to be a global effort that unites research institutions, businesses, and governments alike to create new drugs and alternative therapies, monitor the spread of infections, and educate people over the proper use of antibiotics. Our UK Science and Innovation Network working in the United States has done and continues to do a considerable amount of work over the past year linking the UK and US on the issue of antimicrobial resistance. Recently our team here in Houston hosted a round table with the British Consul General, Andrew Millar, and AMR experts from the University of Texas Health Science Center and Baylor College of Medicine in order to discuss the current trends, obstacles, and opportunities in regards to AMR research and policy development. The discussion covered everything from how we fund the development of new antibiotics to the need for a massive compound library to house and collate physical samples. Above all, sharing data and resources will remain a constant focal point in the debate.

I cannot imagine growing up in a “post antibiotic era” where even the simplest of injuries could be deadly due to our inability to treat infections. As leaders in life sciences, the UK and the US are ideal partners, and only through our continued collaboration will we be able to make progress against the growing tide of antimicrobial resistance.

3 comments on “Antimicrobial Resistance: A Global Challenge

  1. Patrick / Lauren

    Great to read of you recent round table event and such a well informed piece on AMR.

    Please forgive me as I shamelessly flag support FCO is providing DH in the UK – coordinating efforts across Whitehall to raise the international profile of AMR – and role of the UK Mission to the UN in Geneva in enabling multilateral engagment.

    Thanks again for your article!

    Best wishes,


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About Lauren George

Lauren George is the Head of Science and Innovation at the British Consulate General in Houston, covering a 6 state region which includes Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and…

Lauren George is the Head of Science and Innovation at the British Consulate General in Houston, covering a 6 state region which includes Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas with a degree in International Studies and joined the Science and Innovation team in 2012 coming from the Houston Mayor’s Office of Protocol for International Affairs.