Since the official end of COVID, there have been other pathogens that have been spotlighted in medical news, including antimicrobial resistance. CLP editor, Chris Wolski examines whether this is just a convenient news hook or a real trend.

By Chris Wolski

Face it, we live in a giant echo chamber these days. Where the loudest voice—not the most reasoned one—more often than not gets center stage. Sometimes that’s necessary. COVID was the (hopefully) once-in-a-century health crisis that necessitated a spotlight. But with COVID fading in our fight-or-flight response, there have been other pathogens and disease states that have rung the cultural alarm bell: mpox, STIs, fungal infections, cancers of various types, sepsis ad infinitum. Most recently, the spotlight has been on antimicrobial resistance.

Now, don’t get me wrong, all of these deserve discussion—CLP has covered most, if not all, of the aforementioned illnesses either online or in the pages of the magazine (or both)—but the question I had when I received a number of news releases about antimicrobial resistance was: Why am I getting these now? Is this really a trend or issue we need to worry about or is it simply a news hook that will fade in the next news cycle?

So, I decided to ask one of the experts that reached out to me.

Christopher W. Reid, PhD, professor of Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Bryant University, doesn’t see this spotlighting as a danger—quite the opposite. He wrote me: “I don’t think it’s dangerous to focus on a newsworthy pathogen; I think it reinforces the need for stronger communication with the public and legislators, and advocacy to help combat AMR.”

In the context of antimicrobial resistance, Reid connects the need for renewed interest as a consequence of COVID: “The COVID-19 pandemic may lead to a worsening of the problem with the high use of antibiotics in ICUs during this time. Data from the CDC reports a 15% increase in antimicrobial-resistant infections and deaths in hospitals during the pandemic. More data is needed to assess the impact of the COVID pandemic on AMR prevalence.”

It is here that the road diverges into two paths—the hook and the trend. I do think that antimicrobial resistance is an unfortunate trend that needs examination, study, and action—and CLP will continue to cover it.

For his part, Reid outlined the clear role labs have to play in fighting this increase in antimicrobial resistance, including: “Advocacy for proper antibiotic stewardship, communication with the public on AMR and the challenges it presents. The development of rapid, affordable and robust antimicrobial susceptibility tests is an important part of the response to AMR.”

Chris Wolski is chief editor of CLP.