A new study by a team of international infectious disease researchers suggests that antibiotic consumption is not the biggest factor driving the global spread of antimicrobial resistance.
A bigger factor, according to the study, is “contagion,” the spread of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria and resistance genes in people, animals, and the environment. Although antibiotic use starts the process, the authors argue, the spread of resistant strains of bacteria—fueled by poor sanitation, weak healthcare systems with poor infection prevention and control, and bad governance—is what’s made antimicrobial resistance a global health crisis.
“Antibiotics are the ‘fire’ that starts up antibiotic resistance,” lead author Peter Collignon, PhD, a professor at the Australian National University Medical School, told CIDRAP News in an email. “But spread (eg, by water, foods, poor infection controls, etc) is the ‘wind’ that really fans the fire and lets the resistant bacteria and genes spread and go out of control.”