Novel antimicrobial strategies

© David Edwards

Antimicrobials are drugs that kill or inhibit the growth of micro-organisms. These drugs, which include antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals, are essential in modern medicine for the prevention and treatment of many infectious diseases. Antimicrobials are also used in animal health, agriculture and horticulture.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is when a micro-organism develops resistance to antimicrobials that were previously effective. Infections caused by antimicrobial-resistant micro-organisms are difficult to treat, resulting in poor outcomes for patients and economic impacts through increased healthcare costs and lost productivity. The incidence of AMR is rapidly increasing in frequency and geographical spread.

The overuse of antibiotics in medicine, the proliferation of resistant microbes in care homes and hospitals and the use of medically vital antimicrobials as growth promoters or prophylactics in livestock and crop production can all contribute to making the issue of antimicrobial resistance worse. 


How can we tackle antimicrobial resistance?

Antimicrobial-resistant infections cause over 700,000 deaths worldwide annually, and this number is set to grow. They have the potential to compromise the success of surgery, organ transplantation, childbirth and chemotherapy, making many treatments riskier. 

International bodies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Nesta and the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology are already actively taking steps to tackle AMR. There are a number of approaches we can take as a society, which include improving global awareness about reducing non-essential usage of antimicrobials and investing in research to develop new antimicrobials and alternative antimicrobial therapies.

Read more about why developing novel antimicrobial strategies matters to our members and the wider microbiology community, access our additional resources, including nature's solution to antimicrobial resistance, and continue to read more about why understanding bacteria matters to microbiology as we explore the world of biofilms.

  • Microbiologists working in this area

    To celebrate our 75th anniversary in 2020, we invited microbiologists to nominate the discovery or event that best showcases why microbiology matters and helps us demonstrate the impact of microbiologists past, present and future. Learn more about the microbiologists who are developing novel antimicrobial strategies.

  • Resources and further reading

    Discover more about the novel antimicrobial strategies being used to help tackle the rising issue of AMR, projects that have helped raise public awareness, the alternative treatments developed to treat infections, and the researchers who are breaking boundaries to educate the public about microbiology, antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance.

  • The world of biofilms

    Biofilms are communities of micro-organisms that stick to each other and to surfaces. The composition and architecture of biofilms are complex and diverse. We will explore how these communities of micro-organisms can provide structural support, protection from surrounding threats such as antimicrobials, grazing predators and the immune responses of a host as it fights infections.

Image credits:
Black pigmented oral bacteria growing on Blood Agar. Dr David Edwards
Chloe James