GET Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Project

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is the phenomenon whereby microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, protozoans and viruses) display reduced sensitivity to antimicrobial drugs used to treat their respective infections. The overuse and misuse of antimicrobial agents is accelerating this natural process, rapidly rendering modern treatments for infectious diseases partially or totally ineffective, resulting in increased or prolonged morbidity or mortality.

The Global Emerging Pathogens Treatment Consortium (GET), recognizes Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) as a severe biosecurity threat, and has undertaken a research project committed to evaluating the current state of AMR on the African continent. A “one size fits all” approach is simply not suitable for a threat as regionally and epidemiologically variable as AMR, thus GET is working on a biosecurity framework streamlined for the African continent that pays special cognizance to the intersection of unique socioeconomic, infrastructural, and epidemiological factors.

In the African health care sector, limited economic and human resources, an absence of the laboratory equipment and diagnostic tools necessary to empirically determine appropriate treatment regimens, high rates of hospital acquired infections, and inadequate regulation of antimicrobial agents requiring rigorous stewardship programs, all impact the African continent’s capacity to control the spread of resistance. These factors of vulnerability are further compounded by widespread socioeconomic challenges and a uniquely high burden of infectious diseases.

The issue of AMR directly intersects not only with bacterial threats such as tuberculosis, but also other major pathogen threats of particular concern to sub-Saharan Africa, namely HIV/AIDS and malaria. Consequently, in light of its biosecurity vulnerability, the region is expected to experience a disproportionately high economic impact relative to the rest of the world. Estimates point to a 1.66% global reduction in GDP in 2050 with projected resistance models (40% rate increase; low range estimates).1,2 Sub-Saharan Africa, however, is projected to see a 6.28% reduction in GDP in 2050. This corresponds to a 108.5 billion USD yearly GDP loss to AMR for the sub-region alone.

GET aims to (1) evaluate the unique ecological, biomedical, and socioeconomic factors underpinning AMR as a threat to the African continent; (2) further assess AMR’s current and future economic impact to the region; and (3) develop a general strategy framework that addresses AMR within the context of Africa’s more immediate ongoing pathogen threats (HIV/AIDS, TB, malaria, etc). With more countries formulating and mobilizing comprehensive strategies to combat AMR, a collaborative African response is necessary to augment the global effort. Antimicrobial resistance is an emerging threat that pays no cognizance to international borders.

Maureen Nabila Cowan is currently working as a research assistant on GET’s Antimicrobial Resistance project. She is a first-generation Nigerian-American based in the United States. She is dedicated to the progression of biomedical research and its applications to topics of public health and biosecurity on the African continent. Maureen completed her B.A. at the University of Virginia, with a double major in Biology and Psychology in 2015.

1. KPMG, LLC. (2014). The global economic impact of anti-microbial resistance. http://www.kpmg.co.uk/

2. Taylor, J., Hafner, M., Yerushalmi, E., Smith, R., Bellasio, J., Vardavas, R., … & Rubin, J. (2014). Estimating the economic costs of antimicrobial resistance. Model and Results. Cambridge: RAND Corporation.

Project summarized by Ms. Maureen Nabila Cowan
GET Research Fellow