When Trinity student Isabella Aitchison was a child her mother became very ill and was admitted to hospital.
I wasn’t told what was wrong with her – at the time I was only seven years old. Later I found out she had sepsis, a quite common and very serious infection. Mum nearly died. Thankfully the doctor found the right drugs for her just in time.
Antibiotics saved my Mum – that’s why I’m raising awareness about antimicrobial resistance.
Isabella, who is studying Medicine, founded the Trinity AMR Action Group to raise awareness about antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – when bacteria develop counter-measures, making antibiotics less and less effective. This evolution is also affecting antifungal, antiviral and antiparasitic drugs.
The Action Group is taking part in World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW), 18-24 November, with a packed programme of talks, lectures and a film screening.
Trinity will also ‘go blue’ during WAAW to help raise awareness of the threat to public health of AMR and the need to stop it. Otherwise, treating infections could become very challenging and medical procedures such as surgery, chemotherapy and transplants could be jeopardized.
The World Health Organization predicts that by 2050 AMR will result in 10 million additional deaths a year if strategies are not implemented now to prevent drug resistance. That’s more than those predicted to die from cancer.
Medical student Angelica Akrami, Strategy Officer of Trinity AMR Action Group, said:
I was very ill as child and had antibiotics countless times – if effective antibiotics didn’t exist I probably wouldn’t be here today. So raising awareness about AMR is important to me to make sure that the next generation is protected against pathogens of all kinds. I want to make sure that routine surgery or illness isn’t a cloud that hangs over the children of tomorrow.
Matilda Vucaj, also a Medical student and Junior Treasurer of the AMR Action Group, said:
It is frightening to think about a world where future generations, including our own children and grandchildren, may not have the luxury to be treated for common infections as we do now. This is why AMR is important to me and a serious issue which needs acting on.
WAAW has three key messages: wash your hands thoroughly, help raise awareness about AMR, and use antibiotics responsibly – only take them when prescribed for you and finish the course.
The importance of handwashing has been underlined in the COVID era – it’s also imperative to help prevent antimicrobial resistance. Dame Sally Davies, Master of Trinity, said:
If you wash your hands well, you will get fewer infections. If you do not get infections, you do not need antibiotics and if you do not take antibiotics we are less likely to get ‘super bugs’ that do not respond to the treatments. So, it saves us from antimicrobial resistance, super bugs and some horrible things.
As Matilda says in this short video with Dame Sally, there is more to handwashing than you might think.
Dame Sally is UK Special Envoy on Antimicrobial Resistance, in which role she works to raise awareness and put in place measures to stop drug resistance worldwide.
The former Chief Medical Officer for England and Wales paid tribute to the Trinity students organizing this year’s WAAW.
Due to COVID we know firsthand how our lives can be impacted by a public health crisis. Antimicrobial resistance is happening, and it is serious.
Everyone has a role to play, from citizens knowing that colds and flu cannot be alleviated by antibiotics, to GPs prescribing these drugs only when necessary. There have been trials in GP surgeries, with doctors issuing prescriptions that provide no drugs but acknowledge that you are unwell. That is just one example – there are a raft of measures needed worldwide.
If we take action now, we can stop antimicrobial resistance from getting worse – and protect lives around the world, now and in the future.
You can see Trinity AMR Action Group’s programme and sign up for Zoom events free.