At the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York City on September 23, 2019, the Center for Disease Control hosted the Antimicrobial Resistance Challenge: A night celebrating antimicrobial resistance fighters. The venue brought together representatives from various organizations and institutions engaged in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, including PIDS, and showcased artwork bringing attention to the fight against antimicrobial resistance. The event premiered the film “Antimicrobial Resistance Fighters,” which was directed by Michael Wech and introduced by Dame Sally Davies, the Chief Medical Officer for England and Chief Medical Advisor to the UK government.

This powerful and well-made documentary highlighted individual stories to explain the threat of antimicrobial resistance to the general public. One such story featured Mr. David Ricci, a white American young man who spoke passionately at the event about his journey combating an infection that he contracted while living in Calcultta, India. In 2011, Mr. Ricci worked as a volunteer at an orphanage for children living with HIV/AIDS, when he barely survived a horrific accident in which he was struck by a train, his bones and muscles crushed as he was dragged under. The film showed footage of the location where the accident took place, alongside piles of waste and trash where volunteers pulled him out from under the train. At a local clinic his leg was sawed off above the knee at the bedside without anesthesia. He was transferred to a hospital where he underwent multiple surgeries. Brief footage in the film flashed images of his initial wound against the backdrop of the grounds of his accident.  Mr. Ricci flew back home to the U.S. two weeks after the accident where he was cared for at the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. He was found to have a wound infection caused by multiple bacteria that harbored the New Delhi metallobetalactamse-1 enzyme. Dr. John Lynch, the infectious diseases physician caring for him at the University of Washington, explained that after several antibiotics failed, they ultimately treated Mr. Ricci’s infection with colistin and a series of surgical debridements.

Mr. Ricci, who is now a patient advocate and antimicrobial resistance fighter, described his body’s reaction to each dose of colistin as feeling like his organs were being eaten away. Later in the film, another story unfolds describing the use of colistin in agriculture. Mr. Ricci comments that despite the toxic effects that colistin had on his body, the effectiveness of this last line drug against his multi-drug resistant infection saved his life. He acknowledges that he is alive because the bacteria causing his infection were still susceptible to colistin. He expresses his astonishment that our society could allow widespread agricultural use of colistin that would threaten its effectiveness.

 “Antimicrobial Resistance Fighters” was powerful, and will raise awareness to the general public about the global threat of antimicrobial resistance. The film is an example of what events like the AMR Challenge strives to accomplish by bringing together advocates in the fight against antimicrobial resistance from all disciplines, reminding us that we must work together to share our experiences and expertise. 

By Rana Hamdy; Newsletter Edition 9.23.19