The antimicrobial resistance threat and the potential of the human microbiome

Antimicrobial AMR resistance_CommBeBiz photo competition

Earlier this year a media roundtable event in London laid bare the all too real, and hydra-headed, threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) returning us to the dark ages of medicine.

Despite nearly two decades as a pharmaceutical journalist I’ve generally managed to avoid developing any hypochondriac tendencies.

But Getting Things Done To Tackle Superbugs and the scale and complexity of the issues it outlined really gave me pause for thought. Not least when the $2bn invested in AMR research was acknowledged to be inadequate to tackle ‘a silent killer that threatens millions’.

One of those addressing the meeting was Prof Dame Sally Davies, who noted that, while advances have been made, progress is still slow and “we’re all going to have to do better”. Looking to the future the UK’s chief medical officer predicted that “over the next five years we will talk much more about the microbiome”.

So, it seems appropriate a photo that highlights the potential of the human microbiome – all of our microbes’ genes – as a source of novel antimicrobials won last month’s CommBeBiz Bioeconomy Photo Competition.

The winning picture for the EU-funded project’s competition (‘It’s what’s inside that counts’ – pictured above) was taken by Kevin Egan of University College Cork, Ireland with colleagues working from the Peptide Protectants project. It shows a bacteriocin (nisin) producing colonies of Lactococcus lactis inhibiting vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE), an important nosocomial (hospital acquired) superbug.

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