By Sharon Atieno

The United Nation’s Interagency Coordination group on Antimicrobial Resistance (IACG) released a report today which calls for immediate, coordinated and ambitious action to avert a potentially disastrous drug-resistance crisis.

The group cautions that if no action is taken, the number of drug-resistant deaths could raise from the current 700,000 to 10 million deaths globally each year by 2050. “Around 2.4 million people could die in high-income countries between 2015 and 2050 without a sustained effort to contain antimicrobial resistance,” the report notes.

According to the IACG report, common infections are becoming more difficult to treat, and lifesaving medical procedures and treatment riskier to perform. Furthermore, very few antimicrobials, vaccines, diagnostic tools and alternatives to antimicrobials for use in humans, animals and plants are in the research and development pipeline.

The World Health Organization (WHO)’s Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS) report, projects that resistance to second and third line antibiotics- the last lines of defence against some common diseases will almost double between 2005 and 2030.

Antimicrobial resistance despite threatening to reverse tremendous progress in health, also poses a threat to the sustained development goals related to food security, clean water and sanitation, and responsible consumption and production.

The effects would have an impact on poverty and inequality as well, with the World Bank estimating that by 2030 up to 24 million people could be forced in to extreme poverty with majority coming from low-income countries, and annual economic damage comparable to shocks experienced during the 2008 and 2009 global financial crisis- but with no end in sight.

The report calls for a coordinated, multi-sectoral one health approach due to the close interconnection between human, animal, food and environmental health.

“Antimicrobial resistance must be addressed urgently, through a One Health approach involving bold, long-term commitments from governments and other stakeholders, supported by the international organizations,” said Dr. Monique Eloit, Director General of the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). “This report demonstrates the level of commitment and coordination that will be required as we face this global challenge to public health, animal health and welfare, and food security. We must all play our part in ensuring future access to and efficacy of these essential medicines.”

The IACG report gives several recommendations to countries, including: prioritizing national action plans to scale-up financing and capacity-building efforts; putting in place stronger regulatory systems and supporting awareness programs for responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials by professionals in human, animal and plant health; investing in ambitious research and development for new technologies to combat antimicrobial resistance as well as urgently phasing out the use of critically important antimicrobials as growth promoters in agriculture among others.

“The report’s recommendations recognize that antimicrobials are critical to safeguard food production, safety and trade, as well as human and animal health, and it clearly promotes responsible use across sectors,” said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). “Countries can foster sustainable food systems and farming practices that reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance by working together to promote viable alternatives to antimicrobial use, as laid out in the report’s recommendations.”

“Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest threats we face as a global community. This report reflects the depth and scope of the response needed to curb its rise and protect a century of progress in health,” said Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General and Co-Chair of the IACG. “It rightly emphasizes that there is no time to wait and I urge all stakeholders to act on its recommendations and work urgently to protect our people and planet and secure a sustainable future for all.”

Contact:jbutler@globalhealthstrategies.com, media@oie.int, Seockhwan.hwang@un.org