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22nd November 2019
Are WE are more resistant than the bugs?!

AMR Insights (https://www.amr-insights.eu/) is a dedicated organisation raising the profile of resistance to antibiotics among professionals in healthcare, veterinary and government spheres, and it was a pleasure to return to Amsterdam for another matchmaking meeting in mid November: “Emerging Antimicrobials and Diagnostics to combat AMR”. Having represented The Bloomsbury SET at a meeting on data technologies in June (https://bloomsburyset.org.uk/blog/amr-what-solutions-does-the-future-hold/), this extended meeting offered even more contacts from a broader range of companies and countries.

Some of the presentations were quite technical appraisals of emerging antimicrobial solutions, but a key message from the meeting was the vital role of data, and knowing what is out there. A new development is the Global AMR R&D Hub (www.globalamrhub.org), presented by Dr Jennie Hood. The Hub came about in 2017 as an initiative from G20 Leaders, and was launched in 2018. Based in Berlin, it has 19 members, including the European Commission, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust. In fostering international and one health research, and identifying gaps and opportunities in product pipelines, the vision of the Hub is great, but the scope seems huge. It’s a dynamic dashboard approach to a decision making tool, pulling together all current AMR-relevant R&D across bacteria/viruses/fungi; animal and human studies; basic and applied research, and spanning social science, monitoring, networks, the list goes on. “Ambitious” doesn’t even seem to cover it. A fantastic effort, the first section of the Hub is scheduled to be online in the first quarter of 2020, although Jennie did seem to express some doubt this could be achieved…

Dr Maarten van Dongen succinctly summarised the global situation on databases and how we might optimise them. Then there was an interesting panel discussion with input from bodies such as the WHO, and a user perspective from the UK AMR Centre at Alderley Park with the plea that “All data is good data”, negatives need to be reported more often so that others know why a project failed.

Fascinating perspectives came from the area of fungi-based disease, which also develops resistance. Prof Paul Verweij from Radboud UMC spoke about Azole resistant Aspergillus: “a forgotten global threat”, because resistance develops in agricultural pesticides that use azoles very similar to those used for human treatment, and the composting process in agriculture is critical to the spread. Top environmental sources are flower bulb waste (especially “tulips from Amsterdam”, it seems…) green waste and wood chip waste. How does resistance go from the environment to patients? Worryingly this is unknown but research centres on the global trade in flowers, tea, pepper or onions… Not what we wanted to hear before lunch.

A challenging message to leave with was “WE are more resistant than the bugs!” i.e. humans are resistant to change in the way we do things and the tools we use. This came from Dr Patrice Allibert, of Allibert MDx Consulting in Canada, speaking on applying Artificial Intelligence to AMR.

Hopefully but attending this meeting, the delegates have become a bit less resistant than the bugs and will embrace some of the changes and collaborations that are needed to tackle this global threat.

Mark Smith – Programme Manager – The Bloomsbury SET

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