Bioethics Blogs

Cross Post: Next time you ask the doctor for some antibiotics – consider whether you’re being immoral

Written by Alberto Giubilini, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics

This article was originally published in The Conversation

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of microorganisms causing infections to survive exposure to antimicrobial drugs such as antibiotics. This is considered by some to be a slowly emerging disaster. According to the recently released Review on Antimicrobial Resistance commissioned by the UK government, by 2050 some 10m lives a year will be at risk because of drug resistant infections.

Examples of resistant “superbugs” include methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), extremely drug resistant tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, typohoid fever, and group A streptococcus.

Although the evolution of resistant strains is a naturally occurring phenomenon, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is accelerated by the misuse and abuse of currently available antimicrobials in healthcare and in agriculture (including animal farming), to which microbes adapt. In fact, a positive correlation has been demonstrated between antibiotics resistance rates and antibiotics consumption.

To put it simply: it is the human factor that drives AMR. The US Centers for Disease Control said that “the single most important action needed to greatly slow down the development and spread of antibiotic resistant infections is to change the way antibiotics are used”.

In order to reduce AMR rates we need to reduce the consumption of antibiotics. According to a recently released UK government’s report, “AMR is not a problem that can be solved by any one country, or even any one region. We live in a connected world where people, animals, and food travel, and microbes travel with them.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.