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Deb Gordon

Deborah D. Gordon has spent her career trying to level the playing field for healthcare consumers. She is co-founder of Umbra Health Advocacy, a marketplace for patient advocacy services, and co-director of the Alliance of Professional Health Advocates, the premiere membership organization for independent advocates. She is the author of "The Health Care Consumer's Manifesto: How to Get the Most for Your Money," based on consumer research she conducted as a senior fellow in the Harvard Kennedy School's Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government. Deb previously spent more than two decades in healthcare leadership roles, including chief marketing officer for a Massachusetts health plan and CEO of a health technology company. Deb is an Aspen Institute Health Innovators Fellow, an Eisenhower Fellow and a Boston Business Journal 40-under-40 honoree. Her contributions have appeared in JAMA Network Open, the Harvard Business Review blog, USA Today, RealClear Politics, The Hill and Managed Care Magazine. She earned a BA in bioethics from Brown University and an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School.

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How Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Complicates Other Health Conditions

How Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Complicates Other Health Conditions

Superbugs can increase infection risks

Created With Support

Medically reviewed by Dr. Thomas Sandora

Infographic How Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Complicates Other Health Conditions. Click the image to open the PDF

What is antimicrobial resistance (AMR)?

Tiny germs (microbes) — like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites — cause disease.

These microbes are always changing, which means medicines to fight them can stop working.

This is called “antimicrobial resistance” (AMR).

When microbes have AMR, they are called superbugs.

AMR makes infections harder to treat.

What causes AMR?

Antimicrobial drugs can stop working for two main reasons:

  • Overuse: Antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics, antiviral medications and antifungals, are prescribed too often or for too long.
  • Misuse: Drugs are prescribed for conditions they don’t treat, such as prescribing antibiotics for viral infections, or people do not take their entire prescription.

AMR by the numbers

  • The World Health Organization says AMR is one of the top 10 global public health threats
  • By 2050, 10 million people worldwide could die because of AMR
  • More than 35,000 people die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections
  • About 7% of blood samples with Candida, a common fungal infection, tested by the CDC are drug-resistant
  • About ½ of infections after surgery and ¼ after chemotherapy are resistant to antibiotics.

Influenza A, which causes half of human flu cases, has developed resistance to one class of antivirals. It also resisted another class of antivirals, which includes Tamiflu, during certain flu seasons.

How AMR can make health conditions worse

People with certain health conditions need antimicrobials to fight off or prevent infections.

  • Cancer
  • Joint replacement
  • Organ transplant
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Some common infections have become difficult to treat because of AMR, like:

  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Yeast infections
  • Sexually transmitted infections

If antimicrobials don’t work, the consequences can be serious, including:

  • Worsening disease
  • Increased chronic health problems
  • Infection not having been adequately treated
  • More side effects from stronger medications
  • More and longer hospital stays
  • Death

What you can do to prevent AMR

  • Use medicine exactly as prescribed
  • Finish all the doses of medicine, even if you feel better
  • Don’t take antibiotics for a virus like the flu or a cold
  • Don’t take someone else’s prescription
  • Ask your doctor if you really need antimicrobials
  • Practice good hand hygiene
  • Get vaccinated for preventable diseases

This resource was created with support from Pfizer Inc.


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