Keeping up Covid-levels of hygiene awareness long-term could help tackle the spread of deadly antimicrobial resistance, according to new research from the University of West London (UWL) and Royal Holloway University of London.
Making recommendations for change, academics from UWL’s School of Biomedical Sciences and Royal Holloway’s Department of Health Studies, analyzed global data into the prevalence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in urban areas – the rise of which is threatening the lifesaving role of the medications.
It is estimated that without intervention, by 2050, 10 million people worldwide could die annually from infections that no longer respond to antibiotics.
And resistant bacteria are spreading everywhere from university campuses, leisure facilities, and transport hubs to the handles of shopping baskets and even in air samples – predominantly in areas of high human density and on frequently touched surfaces.
But despite the risk, very little surveillance has been carried out into the problems outside of wastewater and healthcare settings.
The report, Surveillance and prevalence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria from public settings within urban built environments: Challenges and opportunities for hygiene and infection control was published in Environment International and seeks to identify the prevalence and surveillance of the bacteria globally, making recommendations for change and improvements to fight the threat.
Researchers highlight the benefits of using technology to monitor AMR spread, designing urban spaces with public health in mind such as more hygienic transport systems.
And that this, alongside keeping up with good hand hygiene and infection control adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic, could drastically reduce transmission of AMR and other infectious diseases.
Professor Hermine Mkrtchyan, Professor of Microbiology at UWL and lead researcher on the paper, said: “Infection control is incredibly important especially during a pandemic, and we must be able to provide appropriate hygiene measures to avoid transmission whether its virus or bacteria.
“We know, as seen with Covid, that transmission risks increase when surfaces are not sanitized regularly and are touched multiple times a day, particularly by people with poor hand hygiene.
“It is no surprise that within overcrowded public settings, AMR bacteria are being transmitted directly either via the air through shedding of skin, by direct contact, or through food.
“Long-term social distancing could go a long way in making lasting change and is incredibly easy to adopt. Additionally, with more robust data we can monitor the need for lasting targeted hygiene interventions such as the permanent introduction of hand sanitizing on transport and in busy areas.”
We are facing a serious threat to health, and the more we can learn and adapt from activity we have adopted during the pandemic and with growth in technology, the more easily we can bring about lasting change save lives.”
Hermine Mkrtchyan, Professor of Microbiology, UWL
Read the paper in full at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016041202100461X
The study was carried out by Dr Rory Cave and Prof Hermine Mkrtchyan from UWL’s School of Biomedical Sciences, and Dr Jennifer Cole from Royal Holloway, University of London’s Department of Health Studies.
Cave, R., et al. (2021) Surveillance and prevalence of antimicrobial resistant bacteria from public settings within urban built environments: Challenges and opportunities for hygiene and infection control. Environment International. doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2021.106836.
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