Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global health emergency the likes of which we’ve never seen. Society’s overuse of life-saving antibiotics has provoked a cornucopia of bacterial strains that are invulnerable to our most commonly used drugs, and a brand new map courtesy of a team led by the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology lets you see just how complex their globe-spanning ecosystem is.
The interactive ResistoMap takes the form of a geographic “heat map,” which reveals the potential of your own digestive system's microbes to resist the use of antibiotics. As your body becomes more resistant due to overuse of antibiotics, it becomes less able to fight off regular infections and those driven by AMR strains of bacteria.
Just at a glance, the map shows some interesting trends. Denmark and Germany, for example, are quite conservative when it comes to using antibiotics. It’s no coincidence, therefore, that their bodies aren’t actually that resistant to the application of antibiotics.
A sample of the ResistoMap, where blue colors represent low AMR, and orange denotes high AMR. ResistoMap
On the other hand, France – which has the highest use of antibiotics in Europe – features comparatively resistant strains of gut microbes. The Chinese populace, whose governing agencies abide by far looser regulations when it comes to antibiotic use, is especially resistant.
The US shows relatively moderate levels of resistance, lower than that of Germany but higher than that of low-level Sweden. Russia itself is lower still, followed by Venezuela.
It must be pointed out that the quality of the country’s healthcare does not necessarily correlate with antibiotic resistance levels. EU countries have very high standards, but antibiotic use is too high. Venezuela’s healthcare system is far less robust; this means antibiotics are far scarcer, and AMR is relatively lower.
The dataset was created using genetic information from over 1,600 people that were analyzed over the course of 12 different studies, which originally focused on 15 nations. The map is a work-in-progress, however, so new information is being added to it all the time.
The summation of the current research can be found in the team’s centerpiece study in the journal Bioinformatics.
Antibiotic Resistance, explained. TED-Ed via YouTube
There are various ways in which the medical community is attempting to turn the tide in this microbial war, from the curious blood of Komodo dragons to Hulk-like compounds that physically tear AMR strains apart.
Nevertheless, the takeaway message of this particular study, and many like it, is that we need to stop using so many antibiotics in our agricultural industries, and patients afflicted with illnesses should only take them if given a specific prescription by a clinical practitioner. If you are given some antibiotics, take the course to completion, lest any surviving bacteria evolve a way of becoming resistant to it.