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World Health Organization: Action plan to combat potentially catastrophic resistance to antibiotics

Gatis Gribusts

On Sunday, United Nations Member States endorsed a global action plan aimed at tackling “antimicrobial resistance,” aka resistance to antibiotics, at the World Health Assembly. Delegates also agreed to improve access to affordable vaccines and to address issues like over and under nutrition. 

This is huge. 

According to the action plan, nearly 25,000 people a year die from antibiotic resistant infections in the European Union and there is said to be a growing resistance to drugs that are used to treat diseases like tuberculosis, H.I.V./AIDS, malaria and pneumonia. That is a terrifying number of people dying a year from resistance to antibiotics. Luckily, a plan is now in place to tackle this problem. 

You may be asking yourself what exactly antibiotics are, how they work and why resistance has become an issue. Simply put, antibiotics are “medicines used to treat infections or diseases caused by bacteria." Antibiotics have saved millions of lives since they were first introduced in the 1940s, but because of overuse and misuse, many antibiotics are no longer effective. Learn more here

The British government’s chief medical adviser, Sally Davies, warned during the discussion yesterday that this could be a catastrophe if we don’t act soon. 

The global action plan  will be adopted today and sets out five major objectives: 

1) to improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance;

2) to strengthen surveillance and research; 

3) to reduce the incidence of infection;

4) to optimize the use of antimicrobial medicines;

5) and to ensure sustainable investment in countering antimicrobial resistance.

Addressing this problem is critically important for several reasons. First of all, this resistance is occurring all over the world. Second, according to W.H.O., it is compromising our ability to treat infectious diseases. Third, it is undermining many advances in health and medicine that we have made. A direction we definitely do not want to go in. 

Through the plan, governments of Member States are committed to implement a national action plan that is aligned with the global action plan by May 2017 - adapting it to their country's specific priorities and contexts. 

If you’re not already convinced how essential this plan is, maybe this will help: A recent study conducted by Jim O’Neill (former Goldman Sachs chief economist) states that without this kind of action to combat antimicrobial resistance, “superbugs would cause the deaths of 10 million people a year and cost the global economy $60 trillion USD to $100 trillion USD by 2050.” Good looking out W.H.O!