Biggest Biosecurity Threat? Antibiotic Resistance

post by talk2sarahw · 2020-02-18T20:33:58.460Z · score: 9 (3 votes) · EA · GW · No comments

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Is anyone doing or has done research on antibiotic resistance?

Antibiotic resistance is a one of the top 10 public health issues, according to WHO. It is projected to take more lives than cancer to become the leading cause of mortality by 2050 (O'Neill, 2014). It currently takes 200,000 children's lives worldwide (Costello, 2016). However, one in two Americans (K-12 students and adults, separately) do not know appropriate antibiotic use for bacterial, not viral infections (Funk & Goo, ‎2015). Similarly, one in two cases of AR is from antibiotic misuse per year (Ventola, 2015). This association is uncanny and must be remediated with education. Antibiotic resistance is the heart of biosecurity as a global catastrophic biological risk.

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answer by Aaron Gertler · 2020-02-18T23:28:40.190Z · score: 3 (2 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Welcome to the Forum! Thanks for asking an interesting question.

I'm not aware of any EA funding going toward antibiotic resistance, though it was the subject of an Open Philanthropy shallow cause writeup (and there may be funding I don't know about). 

Also, I'd recommend you include links to the papers you are citing to make it easier for people to follow your argument (you can highlight text in the Forum's editor to get a "link" button that lets you add a URL).

Finally, while I don't know much about this topic in particular, "1 in 2 Americans don't know how to use antibiotics appropriately" plus "1 in 2 cases of resistance come about as the result of antibiotic misuse" doesn't seem to necessarily imply that education is the best way to respond to AR issues. 

For example, we could change the way doctors prescribe antibiotics to make misuse less likely without changing the way we educate patients (see this example from the UK's Behavioural Insights team). We may also wind up focusing on resistance that comes from sources other than misuse, if there are effective solutions in those areas. Sometimes, the most effective way to work on a problem doesn't involve tackling its biggest sub-problem.

comment by talk2sarahw · 2020-02-26T17:47:12.864Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Hi Aaron, thank you for your thoughtful response! The shallow cause writeup talked about public education on the "stewardship of existing antibiotic resources" ("Antibiotic Resistance," 2013). I do understand that the two statistics may imply separate cases but antibiotic misuse. However, the case study in France, the European nation with the highest antibiotic prescription rates, revealed that an campaign called “Antibiotics are not automatic” administered in France decreased prescriptions by 45% and antibiotic consumption by “26.5%. . . over 5 years" (Sabuncu et al., 2009). This reveals a negative association between antibiotic misuse and knowledge.

I am currently leading the Effective Altruism Club at UC Irvine, CA to integrate education on antibiotic resistance and antibiotic use into the elementary-level education with a form to educate and test parents of their knowledge as well. It is an ongoing project with Assemblywoman Petrie-Norris, so if you're interested, I can talk more about that as well.

comment by Aaron Gertler (aarongertler) · 2020-02-26T21:00:09.310Z · score: 2 (1 votes) · EA(p) · GW(p)

Thanks for adding links!

Is the school-based work you're doing something you hope will become California policy at some point? If so, is it based on similar policy that was successful elsewhere?

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