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Antimicrobial resistance

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Introduction to antimicrobial resistance

Infectious diseases cause millions of deaths globally every year. Microorganisms that cause infectious diseases include bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa.

These microorganisms all differ in size and structure. One key difference between bacteria and fungi is that bacteria are prokaryotic and fungi are eukaryotic. For more information on this have a look at pathogens and the immune system.

Bacteria can cause a range of infections including tonsillitis (usually caused by Streptococcus pyogenes) and tuberculosis (caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis).

Fungal infections range from less serious athlete's foot (caused by Trichophyton rubrum) to life threatening invasive candidiasis (a bloodstream infection caused by Candida). Usually only immunocompromised patients develop life threatening fungal infections.

Antimicrobial medicines treat a range of infections- they are vital in today’s society. Antimicrobial resistance is a global problem. In 2016, approximately 700,000 people died due to antimicrobial resistance. If nothing changes, by 2050 antimicrobial resistance will result in 10 million deaths per year. Antimicrobial resistance is a huge threat to global health - we must take action!

Staphilococcus Aureus Scale

Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). This bacterium is resistant to methicillin, and therefore, other antibiotics must be used against it. Image was obtained with scanning electron microscopy

This resource will help you to understand:

  • What antimicrobials are and how they work.
  • How antimicrobial resistance develops.
  • The mechanisms and consequences of resistance.
  • How antimicrobial resistance is being tackled.