Antimicrobial Resistance: A Multi-National Collaborative Response

| October 19, 2011 | 0 Comments

This colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicts a grouping of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteria magnified 20,000X. Clumps on the surface of the organisms show an increase in cell wall material. Image courtesy of Janice Carr, Public Health Image Library.

By Megan Parsons
Infectious Disease Columnist

Life’s minor cuts, scrapes, and sores often have us reaching for the triple antibiotic ointment and a band-aid to prevent infection. Recently, however, experts say a new Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) strain has emerged because of use of these over-the-counter ointments.[1] In addition, scientists made an alarming discovery that commonly administered treatments, including cephalosporins, for the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhea are now ineffective against the H041 strain of the bacterium.[2] In recent years, we have been witnesses to numerous infectious disease cases, such as these, due to overuse and misuse of antibiotics. The urgency of these problems motivates international collaborative efforts to combat mutagenic infectious diseases globally.

However, research funding for the development of new antimicrobial agents has steadily declined in the last few decades.[3] Development of new drugs is only a temporary solution as infectious diseases continue to acquire drug resistance, resulting in increasingly ineffective treatments. Therefore it  becomes crucial that we use antimicrobial agents properly to preserve the efficacy of existing antibiotics, reduce resistance-related complications, and maximize health of the global community.

In response to this global threat, the Transatlantic Taskforce on Antimicrobial Resistance (TATFAR) was established at the 2009 summit between E.U. and U.S. presidencies, with the goal of increased multi-national collaboration for combating antimicrobial resistance.[4] TATFAR’s approach includes a protocol for measuring antimicrobial use in hospitals, a process for communication of critical outbreaks, and a call for policymakers to establish incentives for antibacterial drug and vaccine development.

This ideal scenario of international collaboration, if manifested, would affect the future of drug-resistant strains; however, with limited funds, certain goals must be prioritized. To this end, communicating the importance of each recommendation to the policymakers with the power to enact them is a critical step in advancing the mission of TATFAR, and thus should be emphasized accordingly.

The face of infectious disease is constantly evolving, posing a multifaceted global health issue. Longer hospital stays, economic ramifications, and an increase in poor prognoses are only a few of the deleterious effects of antimicrobial resistance.  Community-based initiatives, educational campaigns in hospitals, and wider public dissemination of knowledge about drug-resistant strains are among the successful projects established in the U.S. and the E.U.[5] But to truly impact antimicrobial-resistant disease, policymakers must be alerted to the importance of this public health issue and their ability to influence legislation.  Without this vital support from policymakers, opportunities for research funding for drug development, initiatives supporting the appropriate use of antimicrobial agents in hospitals, and community-based educational programs may be lost.

In addition to lobbying political players to implement these recommendations, there is another key component to combatting these drug-resistant strains, but it poses a unique challenge: it is beyond the scope of TATFAR. Infectious diseases do not recognize the same geopolitical borders that limit the scope of human impact on this global issue; it is therefore imperative to establish additional multi-national organizations to stimulate discussion and collaboration, and effectively combat antimicrobial-resistant disease worldwide.


[1] Suzuki, Masahiro et al. “Antimicrobial Ointments and Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus USA300.” Emerging Infectious Disease 17 (2011). <>. 16 October 2011.

[2] Kelland, Kate. “Scientists Find First Superbug Strain of Gonorrhea.” Reuters. 11 July 2011. <>. 16 October 2011.

[3] European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. European Medicines Agency. “The Bacterial Challenge: Time to React.”  Stockholm: ECDC, 2009. <>. 16 October 2011.

[4] European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Transatlantic Taskforce on Antimicrobial Resistance. “Recommendations for future collaboration between the U.S. and EU.”  Transatlantic Taskforce on Antimicrobial Resistance, 2011. <>. 16 October 2011.

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