Jun 4, 2020

New report: Knowledge gaps in prevention of antibiotic resistance

Stig Wall, professor emeritus in epidemiology at Umeå university

A new study in Global Health Action, commissioned by the Foundation to Prevent Antibiotic resistance, concludes that research on preventive strategies is an under-researched field. Among the 430 000 research papers on antibiotic resistance that the study identified in an 18-year period, only 0.25% focus on preventive strategies. More cross-disciplinary research and evidence-based interventions are needed for the prevention of antibiotic resistance.

The study is a scoping review of scientific literature to identify knowledge gaps and underprioritized strategies to prevent antibiotic resistance. During the most part of the 20th century, the leading strategy was development of new antibiotics, but even though no new classes of antibiotics have been introduced since 1987 the study shows that research on preventive interventions is still underprioritized.

The author, Stig Wall, is professor emeritus in epidemiology at Umeå university, and he sees these knowledge gaps leads to much of the preventive work that is done has a weak scientific foundation, which could lead to a waste of resources and ineffective interventions. In many instances, proper studies of the effects of interventions do not exist, especially in low-income settings:

– We need to be reminded that the world’s poorest are still more affected by a lack of access to antibiotics than by resistance. Our efforts need to balance access and misuse, says Stig Wall.

It is still unclear what impact covid-19 will have on antibiotic resistance in the long term. The pandemic is bringing global health into focus as an important matter of sustainability and increases awareness of the importance of functioning healthcare and treatments. Meanwhile, the situation could also be worsened as the pandemic drives increasing antibiotic use – both correct use to treat secondary bacterial infections, and misuse among people who mistakenly think that antibiotics would help against the virus.

Antibiotic resistance is both a matter of global security and access and a key issue of our time parallel to climate change. It is common that people fail to see the connection between their personal use of antibiotics and the global matter of antibiotic resistance, a pattern that is similar to how people behave around travel and consumption and how that relates to global warming, says Stig Wall.

Read the full report in Global Health Action here.


Antibiotic resistance is both a matter of global security and access and a key issue of our time parallel to climate change. 

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