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What is AMR?

Antimicrobials have been used for decades to prevent and treat infections. When microorganisms develop antimicrobial resistance (AMR), these medicines and chemicals no longer work. Common infections become much harder – and sometimes impossible – to treat.

Humans, animals, and plants are all at risk from AMR. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH/OIE), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have jointly appealed to all countries to act urgently on AMR.

The genetic basis of AMR is complex. Once AMR emerges, it can jump from one microbe to another through gene transfer. It can spread through water, waste, feed, food, environments, animals and humans. This means AMR can be transmitted within and between populations and industries.

Antimicrobials are essential for human, animal and plant health. But the more we use them, the more we encourage the development and spread of AMR. This has led to the concept of antimicrobial stewardship: ensuring the appropriate use of antimicrobials to safeguard their effectiveness while reducing the risk of AMR.

Antimicrobial resistance is a serious global threat to human health, water quality, food safety and security, and agriculture productivity.

AMR could also undo decades of medical progress.

AMR’s Impact

It is estimated that bacterial AMR was directly responsible for 1.27 million global deaths in 2019. AMR also has significant economic costs. If not addressed, it could wipe up to $283 billion from the Australian economy by 2050. The World Bank estimates AMR could result in US $1 trillion additional healthcare costs by 2050, and US $3.4 trillion gross domestic product (GDP) losses per year by 2030.

Potential impacts of unmitigated AMR on industry and communities are far reaching – ranging from treatment failure to production failure, regulatory pressure, trade impacts and export industry disruption.

A One Health Approach

SAAFE’s work is underpinned by a One Health approach which recognises the interconnection between people, animals, plants and their shared environments.

This holistic approach, and our role in facilitating collaboration between our partners, will see coordinated action across all sectors where antimicrobials are used. It will also position SAAFE as a leader in the global fight against AMR.

Australia has committed to minimising the development and spread of AMR through strategies such as the National Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy – 2020 & Beyond and the One Health AMR Master Action Plan.

AMR is the quintessential One Health challenge – the ultimate interrelatedness of human, animal and environmental health.