AMR occurs when microorganisms (e.g., bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites) evolve and become resistant to the medications normally used to treat their infections. This is a serious problem worldwide as infections that were once curable with standard treatment — such as specific strains of pneumonia, gonorrhea, tuberculosis — are now presenting as resistant to one or more antimicrobials (e.g., antibiotics, antifungal agents).
The quick spread of AMR has been attributed to a number of factors, most notably the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials. According to this WHO report, AMR has a significant impact on human health and the health-care system, as infections by drug-resistant antimicrobials are associated with poor health outcomes, including increased length of stay in hospital, complications, and mortality. Worldwide, it is estimated that AMR will become a leading cause of death by 2030. Nationally, a report from the Canadian Council of Academies estimates that by 2050, close to 400,000 lives in Canada will be lost due to AMR, costing the health-care system $120 billion.
Role of the nurse
Nurses have a critical role to play in the fight against AMR and can support the judicious use of antimicrobials in many ways, including:
- Assess and monitor for signs and symptoms of infections and side-effects of antimicrobial treatment.
- Prescribe and de-prescribe judiciously.
- Act as stewards for microbiology and laboratory testing.
- Educate patients and the public.
- Implement infection prevention and control practices.
- Ensure appropriate allergy recording.