News & Commentary

Antimicrobial Resistance Rampant

If something isn’t done and done fast to combat the rising rates of resistance to antibiotics, then the world could face economic damage comparable to that of the 2008–2009 global financial crisis, according to a United Nations report. That report, by the U.N.’s Interagency Coordination Group on Anti­microbial Resistance, doesn’t mince words, starting with the title: “No Time To Wait: Securing the Future From Drug-Resistant Infections.”

As resistance to antibiotics spreads and “superbugs” get their way more often, health costs will increase dramatically while, at the same time, global trade in food, feed, and livestock will plummet. By 2030, up to 24 million people could be forced into extreme poverty.

And this also should get everybody’s attention: “Drug-resistant diseases already cause at least 700,000 deaths globally a year, including 230,000 deaths from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, a figure that could increase to 10 million deaths globally per year by 2050 under the most alarming scenario if no action is taken.”

This wasn’t a rush job. This panel of scientific experts was formed in March 2017 explicitly to present a game plan to deal with all manner of resistance—to antivirals, antifungals, and antiprotozoals as well as antibiotics.

Their report, issued in April, stated that the battle should be joined globally in every sense. Misuse of anti­biotics occurs not only in humans, but in animals and plants as well. “Because the drivers of antimicrobial resistance lie in humans, animals, plants, food, and the environment, a sustained One Health response is essential to engage and unite all stakeholders around a shared vision and goals,” the report stated.

The report focused a lot on One Health, which argues that the health of humans, animals, and the environment are connected. Indeed, the UN report says that six out of every 10 infectious diseases affecting humans come from animals.

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