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Celebrated annually from 18–24 November, World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) aims to increase awareness of global antimicrobial resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections. 
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines. This makes infections harder to treat and increases the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. Measures to prevent infection include getting vaccinated, practising safer sex, good hand hygiene, food safety practices, and increasing availability of water and sanitation facilities.
AMR is a complex problem affecting human, animal, plant and environmental health. Therefore, addressing AMR requires a holistic and multisectoral approach – referred to as a One Health approach. By designing and implementing multi-sectoral programmes, policies, legislation and research across human, terrestrial and aquatic animal and plant health, food and feed production and the environment, AMR can be effectively addressed to achieve better One Health outcomes. Everyone has a role to play.
(Source: WHO website)
The University continues to promote antimicrobial resistance messages from the UK government and Public Health England as well as WHO outside of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week. We are engaged in cross-disciplinary research into antimicrobial resistance from examining deep-sea sponges in the search for new antibiotics, to inventing new technologies to detect antibiotic resistance in blood samples for more effective prescribing of antibiotics.
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What is ‘antimicrobial resistance’?

Antimicrobials – including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics – are medicines used to treat infections in humans, animals and plants. 
All around the world bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites are changing and starting not to respond to the medicines used to treat the infections they cause. This antimicrobial resistance (AMR) emerges naturally, usually through genetic changes. However, the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials have accelerated the development of antimicrobial resistance, as has a lack of clean water and sanitation and inadequate infection prevention and control. This makes infections harder to treat which increases the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.
The rise of drug-resistant pathogens threatens to undo more than a century’s work of health progress and undermine the very foundations of modern medicine. For example, bacterial infections resistant to antibiotics could make vital medical procedures like organ transplants, joint replacements, cancer care and care of preterm infants too dangerous to perform. AMR can affect anyone, of any age, in any country.
AMR also affects and is affected by animals and the environment. The use of antimicrobials in animal health is driven by the large and growing burden of animal diseases, the increasing scale of animal production and under-investment in veterinary services and animal health. Reducing the inappropriate use of antimicrobials in animals must address these underlying issues.
(Source: WHO website)
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Antimicrobials: Handle with Care

WAAW increases awareness of global AMR and encourages best practices among the general public, health workers and policymakers to avoid the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections. Everyone can be an AMR Awareness Champion. 

The differences between bacteria and viruses 

Author: Dr Tina Joshi, Associate Professor of Molecular Microbiology 
"While both bacteria and viruses are capable of causing infections, there are some fundamental differences between the two microorganisms.
Did you know that viruses do not have their own cell machinery? This means that they use the host’s cell to survive and replicate (reproduce). 

For example, viruses that infect humans will enter the human and replicate in specific cells that they target. The virus will enter those human cells and “tell” the cell machinery to make more virus copies! This is almost like a “hijacking” of the cell. The cell then produces virus parts like proteins, RNA and DNA, which are bought together and thus more copies of the virus are made. Eventually these copies/new viruses break out of the human cell and go on to infect new host cells. Viruses cannot multiply or survive for long without using a living host.
Viruses also have a different structure to bacteria – they are made up of proteins, glycoproteins and nucleic acids only. Bacteria have their own cell wall, have their own cellular content and are able to reproduce and survive by themselves. 

Viruses are very tiny compared to bacteria – approximately 1,000 times smaller (in nanometres – nm) whereas bacteria are measured in micrometres (µm). 
Finally, antibiotics will kill or damage bacteria only. Antiviral drugs are needed to combat viruses, and antivirals are usually designed to target and stop the virus replication process.”
Watch The Big Talk by Tina (presented as part of FUTURES2022) – "Why antimicrobial resistance needs a global persistence" on YouTube (running time: 55 minutes). 

Further reading

Our research
PLymouth ANtimicrobial EngagemenT (PLANET) Initiative
Find out about the vital research our team are undertaking in highlighting the issue of antimicrobial and antibiotic resistance. PLANET encompasses the following research groups.
  • Internationally recognised for development of novel antibiotics and investigation of uropathogenic E coli
  • A programme of drug discovery to help meet the need for new antibiotics
  • We study pathogens that cause drug resistant infections with a particular focus on urinary tract infections
  • Research into rapid diagnostic innovations for antimicrobial resistant pathogens in healthcare and bacterial infection control

Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research

From basic research discovering the causes of disease, through to evaluating novel ways of delivering care to the most vulnerable people in society, our thriving community conducts adventurous world-leading research. 
Transformation in life course, ageing, methodologies, e-health, technology and interventions in health, social care, lifestyle and wellbeing. 
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