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Antimicrobial resistance: the silent pandemic

Zainab Bilal



Year of study:

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The antimicrobial resistance (AMR) crisis was responsible for 1.2 million deaths in 2019 and the mortality rate is predicted to increase to 10 million by 2050, if no action is taken. AMR arises when microbes evolve resistance to antimicrobial drugs such as antibiotics. The major contributor to this crisis is bacteria which can be sub-divided into two groups, based on the presence of an outer membrane. Cell membranes act as a barrier to substances exiting/entering cells and are also present in plant and animal cells. Gram-negative bacteria possess a double membrane; an outer and inner membrane, whilst gram-positive bacteria do not. There are certain components present within the outer membrane that are integral in conferring drug resistance to gram-negative bacteria, making it incredibly difficult to develop new antimicrobials against them. These components can be modified through mutations or replaced all together which prevents antimicrobials from binding to their correct substrates, inhibiting their uptake into bacterial cells. Recently there has been an increased focus placed on the bacterial outer membrane, leading to significant advances in the development of new antimicrobials that are active against gram-negative bacteria. My research showed that newly developed drugs were able to kill or inhibit growth of clinically significant bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella and many others, in the laboratory and in living animal models. This research is essential for slowing down progression of the AMR crisis; to significantly reduce mortality rates and provide effective treatment for individuals infected with resistant bacteria.

I am a 4th year Microbiology student, born and raised in the southside of Glasgow. Throughout my university career I have always taken a special interest in Bacteriology and have recently undertaken a dissertation within this field. I am fascinated by the intricate and complex nature of bacteria, specifically how they cause severe infection in humans and their capacity to adapt and evolve with us. Their ability to resist the action of antimicrobials is a significant challenge faced within Microbiology, one that I chose to focus on in my final year project. Let’s Talk About [X] provides a platform from which the wider university community and the general public can increase their understanding of the antimicrobial resistance crisis and why urgent action is required. This branch of Microbiology is one that will continue to evolve, its fast pace nature is something that I find exhilarating. In the future I hope to undertake a PhD and contribute to the ground-breaking research being carried out within this field.

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