Thu | Jan 21, 2021

Antimicrobial resistance: One of the greatest health challenges of our time

Published:Wednesday | November 25, 2020 | 12:11 AM

The heads of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and the World Health Organization (WHO) have launched the new One Health Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance.

Group members include heads of government, government ministers, leaders from private sector and civil society. The group is co-chaired by Mia Mottley, prime minister of Barbados, and Sheikh Hasina Wazed, prime minister of Bangladesh.

The group will harness the leadership and influence of these world-renowned figures to catalyse global attention and action to preserve antimicrobial medicines and avert the disastrous consequences of antimicrobial resistance.

The tripartite organisations launched the group during World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2020 (November 18-24), as part of their shared call for united action to preserve and protect antimicrobial medicines. The group was created in response to a recommendation from the Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance and supported by the secretary general of the United Nations.

The directors general described the rapid rise of antimicrobial resistance as one of the world’s most urgent threats to human, animal, plant and environmental health – endangering food security, international trade, economic development and undermining progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. Antimicrobial resistance also leads to increased health care costs, hospital admissions, treatment failure, severe illness and death.

Antimicrobial resistance is making many infections harder to treat worldwide. WHO’s latest reporting shows that the world is running out of effective treatments for several common infections.

“Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest health challenges of our time, and we cannot leave it for our children to solve,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general. “Now is the time to forge new, cross-sector partnerships that will protect the medicines we have and revitalise the pipeline for new ones.”

Misuse and overuse of antimicrobials in humans, animals and agriculture are the main drivers of antimicrobial resistance. Resistant microorganisms can spread between humans, animals or the environment, and the antimicrobial medicines used to treat various infectious diseases in animals and humans can be the same.

“No single sector can solve this problem alone,” said QU Dongyu, director general of FAO. “Collective action is required to address the threat of antimicrobial resistance – across different economic sectors and country borders.”

The group will provide political leadership to address this critical global challenge. It will elevate the need to prioritise best practices to address antimicrobial resistance at global, regional, and national levels. And it will advise and advocate for the development and implementation of polices and legislation to govern the importation, manufacture, distribution and use of quality antimicrobial drugs across all sectors.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a current problem affecting animal health, human health, and the environment, we need to act today to protect their efficacy,” said Dr Monique Eloit, director general of OIE. “I am confident that this group will advocate powerfully to implement legislation and mobilise key stakeholders to change antimicrobial use and practices to protect our collective health and welfare.”