UNGA president calls for action on antimicrobial resistance

UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir

United Nations, (Asian independent) UN General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir on Thursday called on member states to take action on antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

“I encourage member states to develop and implement national action plans on AMR, strengthen regulation of antimicrobials, improve knowledge and awareness, and promote best practices, as well as foster innovative approaches, using alternatives to antimicrobials and new technologies, for diagnosis and vaccines,” he told a high-level interactive dialogue on antimicrobial resistance, Xinhua reported.

Effective communication, education and training are critical to raise awareness and encourage expert-driven behavioral change. Multi-stakeholder partnerships are key. The private sector, doctors, medical workers, farmers, the food industry, and regulators, as well as consumers, are critical partners in this battle, he said.

As with so many crises, it is the vulnerable who stand to be most affected by antimicrobial resistance. Stronger systems are needed to monitor drug-resistant infections and the volume of antimicrobials used in humans, animals, and crops, said Bozkir.

The world is already running out of effective treatments for several common infections. Currently, an estimated 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases. And with few replacement products in the pipeline, the world is moving toward a post-antibiotic era in which common infectious diseases will once again cause mortality. None of the 43 antibiotics currently in development are enough to combat the increasing emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance, he said.

If current trends continue, sophisticated interventions like organ transplantation, joint replacements, cancer chemotherapy and care of pre-term infants, which all require antimicrobials, will become too dangerous and will no longer be possible. If no action is taken, drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and damage to the economy will be as catastrophic as the 2008 global financial crisis. By 2030, antimicrobial resistance could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty, he warned.

Lack of regulation, the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animals, over-the-counter and internet sales have sparked a boom in counterfeit or poor-quality antimicrobials, he said.

“Let me leave you with one thought. Next time you consider using antimicrobials, or are offered a meal treated by antimicrobials, consider the impact your decision will have on your grandchildren’s access to these life-saving drugs. We can no longer take them for granted. We have to act now to safeguard the progress we have already achieved,” said Bozkir.