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Antimicrobial Resistance and the Need for Multidisciplinarity

What Do We Want? A Multidisciplinary Approach to AMR Research. When Do We Want It? Now!

The problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a complex and multifaceted one. AMR is caused by pathogenic bacteria that are genetically evolved enough to combat our current antibiotics. Once the resistance to a particular antibiotic develops in a bacterial species, it can spread globally and inflict death upon a myriad of people. Although it seems purely a scientific problem; the prevention, containment, and hopeful cure for these superbugs is a multidisciplinary and Petri Dishglobal endeavor. In order to hinder the disastrous effects these superbugs will have on the human species, researchers from all different disciplines must come together and share their findings. We must spark a global conversation.

Fragmented Research

Our current approach to limiting the development and spread of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria is fragmented amongst researchers of different disciplines. There was a global report published by the World Health Organization that indicated there is no common methodology in research to deal with the issue of AMR (1). The article also describes the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria released in 2015 that called for “cooperation among healthcare providers, healthcare leaders, pharmaceutical companies, public health professionals, veterinarians, medical and veterinary schools, the agricultural industry, patients, and the public” (1) These are just some of the disciplines that must be involved in mitigating the further development of resistant superbugs.

The One Health Solution

The One Health philosophy calls for the inclusion of all disciplines towards a greater good. Science disciplines are instrumental in the development of new antibiotics and health care. However, social sciences must be incorporated in the fight against AMR. There was an attempt at enlisting researchers in the social sciences in the fight against AMR called The International Network for Antimicrobial Resistance Social Science (INAMRSS) (2). This approach called for more collaboration between researchers in social sciences on the issue of AMR. There was also an article published in the Access Microbiology Journal that “demonstrate[s] how AMR is a transdisciplinary problem” (3). The article focuses on the need to incorporate historians and social scientists into AMR research. Hopefully, more attempts will follow suit and encourage the participation of all disciplines in combatting this global issue.

Barriers to Research Unification

Cityscape showing interconnected dots

There are many challenges related to uniting researchers of different disciplines. There was an attempt at creating a global conversation called The TACTIC Experience; whose goal was to establish a global, multidisciplinary approach towards resolving AMR (4). Creators of The TACTIC Experience described their biggest challenges in fostering international collaborations amongst researchers. The most emphasized struggles were language barriers, travel restrictions, and limited data sharing. However, for the sake of collaboration in order to save lives, there must be greater attempts at removing these barriers and encouraging the flow of information amongst different researchers and between different countries.

The world has become undeniably globalized and although this includes upsides such as greater information sharing and travel; it also allows for antimicrobial-resistant bacteria to spread more easily around the world. Antibiotics are developed by scientists, prescribed by doctors, advertised by marketing firms, sold by corporations, and taken by the general public. It is unlikely that the problem of AMR can be solved by changes in only one discipline. Along with greater research allocated to the creation of new antibiotics, there must be more caution in prescribing them, more attention when taking them, and more efforts to spread awareness of the possible dangers of overuse. All of this can only be accomplished by the initiation of a global conversation and constant collaboration between knowledgeable researchers of different fields.

Learn more about the Center’s attempts to combat AMR at our Circular Health Research page.

By Arianna Insenga, Circular Health Intern

References
  1. Lammie SL, Hughes JM. 2016. Antimicrobial Resistance, Food Safety, and One Health: The Need for Convergence. Annual Review of Food Science and Technology 7:287-312.
  2. Minssen T, Outterson K, Rogers Van Katwyk S, Batista PHD, Chandler CIR, Ciabuschi F, Harbarth S, Kesselheim AS, Laxminarayan R, Liddell K, Osterholm MT, Price L, Hoffman SJ. 2020. Social, cultural and economic aspects of antimicrobial resistance. Bulletin of the World Health Organization 98:823-823A.
  3. de Lima Hutchison C, Núñez A. 2020. Antimicrobial resistance: Transdisciplinary research on humans, antimicrobials and microbes. Access Microbiology
  4. Al-Hassan L, Roemer-Mahler A, Price J, Islam J, El-Mahallawy H, Higgins PG, Hussein AFA, Roca I, Newport M. 2020. The TACTIC experience: establishing an international, interdisciplinary network to tackle antimicrobial resistance. Journal of Medical Microbiology 69:1213-1220.

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