This year's British Society for Microbial Technology Annual Microbiology Conference will be held on 11 May at the RAF Museum in Hendon, North London. It will cover a range of different topics but this year there is a particular focus on different aspects of antimicrobial resistance. Here, BSMT Chair Dr Mark Wilks, on behalf of the organising committee, introduces some themes of the meeting.
We are very fortunate to have Professor Alisdair McGowan, Professor of Antimicrobial Therapeutics at the University of Bristol to give the keynote introduction to our meeting and to give some perspective to the topic. He is ideally suited for this as he has led a mixed NHS-academic research group in the area of antimicrobial chemotherapy for over 25 years, with particular interests in rapid diagnostics and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the community. He was microbiological lead on a joint MRC (UK)-China project studying AMR in rural China.
Obviously AMR is a major health problem and one which will only get worse, but getting an accurate picture of the extent of the burden is surprisingly difficult and we are relying on Professor McGowan to give us a reliable update. The O'Neill report produced for the UK government in 2014 had the headline grabbing claim that by 2050 10 million people a year will be dying because of unsuccessful treatment of antimicrobial infections. This figure now appears in any general newspaper article on AMR and the introductory paragraph of any grant application to do with AMR, but how accurate is it and what is the methodology that was used to produce this startling figure?
Surprisingly, the figure of 10 million deaths was not produced by a group of health experts but by KPMG, a firm of management consultants. Their methodology has been widely questioned and weaknesses in the study pointed out. One group of Swiss experts pointed out that there were so many uncertainties and lack of data that it was in fact impossible to produce a meaningful figure, and producing estimates like this with dubious methodology might undermine rather than support the fight against AMR.1
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