World leaders reached a landmark agreement declaring antibiotic resistance “the most urgent and global risk” at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City on September 21 2016. Drug resistance can develop in populations of parasites that have been repeatedly exposed to a certain drug over a long period of time, especially when the drug is used excessively or in a sporadic manner. Though much progress has been made to quell the number of new cases of tuberculosis (TB), HIV/AIDS, and malaria infections, each of these diseases could undergo a resurgence if a multinational concerted effort is not taken to combat drug resistance. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 480,000 people develop multi-drug resistant TB every year. At the core of reducing the risk of drug resistance is curbing misuse of antibiotics and an increased devotion to the development of novel drugs to combat infections. WHO director Margaret Chan warns, “With few replacement products in the pipeline, the world is heading to a post-antibiotic era in which common infections, especially those caused by gram-negative bacteria, will once again kill… Doctors facing patients will have to say, ‘Sorry, there is nothing I can do for you.”
The issue not only poses a health threat; there is also financial incentive to tackle this issue. Drug-resistant infections increase the cost of healthcare, demanding longer, more intensive hospital stays and more resources. It is imperative to note that the UN agreement is non-binding, and that the success of the agreement will be measured by how nations individually direct their resources toward addressing drug resistance. The situation requires the cooperation of pharmaceutical, governmental, agricultural sectors as well as the diligence of healthcare professionals.
1Tavernise, Sabrina. World Leaders Agree at U.N. on Steps to Curb Rising Drug Resistance. The New York Times. 21 September 2016.
2Antimicrobial Resistance Fact Sheet. The World Health Organization. September 2016.
3 Chan, Margaret. WHO Director-General Addresses UN General Assembly on Antimicrobial Resistance. World Health Organization. 21 September 2016.