Antimicrobial Research and Resistance

Background on Antimicrobial resistance

The introduction of antimicrobial drugs in the mid-to-late 20th century has saved the lives and eased the suffering of many millions of people globally. However, resistance to antimicrobial drugs has emerged over recent years, and the development of antimicrobial resistance is no longer the theoretical threat it once was. This means that once treatable infections are fast becoming refractory to multiple types of antimicrobial drugs. In the EU alone, multidrug-resistant bacteria appear to be responsible for more than 25,000 deaths per year with associated healthcare costs running into many billions of Euros. This issue is now so serious that the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) consider antimicrobial resistance to be a major health threat in Europe in the 21st century.

Resistance is most prominent in bacterial pathogens. Over 60% of healthy individuals are estimated to carry resistant bacteria on their skin and in their gastrointestinal tracts. A particular concern is that these strains may spread to vulnerable hospitalized patients and result in previously treatable secondary infections becoming major health risks. Reports of development of resistance to so-called ‘antibiotics of last resort’ are rare, but illustrate the seriousness of this developing situation. According to the ECDC and the European Medicines Organisation (EMA), most of the antibiotics presently used for common infections will likely become useless within five to ten years, turning back the clock to the pre-antibiotic era.

Antimicrobial resistance is not limited to bacteria. Effective antiviral drugs are a more recent development in comparison to antibiotics. However, single- and/or multidrug-resistant strains of human influenza virus, herpes simplex virus and HIV have been reported, which suggests a bleak future perspective in this domain if novel antivirals are not developed. Among the parasitic protozoa, resistance of malaria parasites to antimalarial drugs is frequently observed and constitutes a major health issue. Resistance represents the single biggest hurdle to the control of malaria and is leading to the resurgence of malaria in many parts of the world, in particular in developing countries.

It is clear that antimicrobial resistance is a global challenge and that joint and coordinated efforts are required to address unmet medical needs and future emergence of resistant pathogens. This multifaceted problem demands measures from many sectors of society including policy makers, health care providers, academia, and industry. Action is needed on multiple fronts including new approaches to the prevention and treatment of infections, novel drugs and diagnostic tools, improved molecular surveillance, modelling and prediction of the development of antimicrobial resistance, unravelling the transfer of resistance genes and developing personalized medicine strategies, taking inter-individual differences in patients into consideration. As such there is an urgent need for young innovative scientists who are able to integrate expertise from multiple areas of basic and applied biomedical sciences, to translate gained antimicrobial research and resistance knowledge into new approaches to improve clinical practice and public health.

AIMMS and Antimicrobial Research and Resistance

The scientific nature of the research groups within AIMMS secure a multi-disciplinary approach to the topic of the STAR programme. The AIMMS research activities can be grouped around three interrelated research programmes, which comprise: (i) Molecular mechanisms of biological processes, (ii) Design and characterization of molecules and medicines, and (iii) Biomarkers and diagnostics.

Please have a look at our the research topics to discover how these fit in your envisaged research proposal.