The challenge of getting to grips with antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been likened to the challenge of confronting a ‘silent pandemic’.

This was the main thrust of the presentation given by Sunita Narain, Director-General, of India’s Centre for Science and Environment to this week’s high-level interactive dialogue on AMR, hosted by the United Nations (UN).

She went on to draw close parallels to the way in which the world has tackled the Covid-19 crisis and the means by which the AMR problem can be resolved.

Narain said: “Global cooperation is at the heart of the AMR solution. But the response that is generated will only be as strong as the weakest link in the chain.”

Affordable antimicrobial treatment

Narain went on to point out that the world needs continuing access to affordable antimicrobials.

“But they must be used on a sustainable basis. And this must happen now,” she said.

“The days are over when growth and development can be achieved at any cost, leaving the pollution that is created to be cleaned up afterwards.”

According to Narain, Covid-19 has taught us that global inter-dependence is the way forward. And this must the principle followed when it comes to tackling AMR.

Antimicrobial resistance

AMR is now universally regarded by the world’s leading aid agencies as a rising pandemic, one which challenges the effective delivery of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Currently, at least an estimated 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases.

If no action is taken, drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and damage to the economy as catastrophic as the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

By 2030, AMR could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty.

“AMR is arguably one of the most complex threats to global health security, food safety and food security,” stated Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director-General, QU Dongyu.

“FAO expects a 45% rise in the demand for animal proteins by 2050 and in many regions, antimicrobial resistance in animal parasites is adding new challenges to animal production,” he added.

“We must face the double challenge of meeting demands for animal proteins while reducing the risks of AMR.”

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Director-General Dr. Monique Eloit explained: “The promotion of good animal health practices is essential to contribute to the global effort to tackle AMR.

“The OIE global database on antimicrobial agents intended for use in animals, indicates an encouraging trend towards reduced quantity of antimicrobials used in food producing animals.

“To have a sustainable ‘One Health’ impact, we need to invest and strengthen capacity equally in all sectors, and support the prudent and responsible use of antimicrobials in the animal health sector, to maintain the efficacy of these important medicines,” she concluded.