On September 21, 2016 delegates at the 71st meeting of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly gathered to discuss the shared danger of antimicrobial resistance
(AMR), signaling the global scale of this urgent public health crisis while pledging to collectively tackle the problem of superbugs.
In only the fourth General Assembly meeting focused on the topic of AMR, attendees passed a declaration
marking an historic accord on an issue facing individuals around the world. According to the World Health Organization
(WHO), these hard-to-treat infections can infect anyone of any age in any country. Each year, drug-resistant infections kill 700,000 people
worldwide, including 200,000 newborns
. The problem of antibiotic resistance is no less looming in developed countries than in low-income countries, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) notes that each year at least 2 million people in the United States contract drug-resistant bacterial infections and 23,000 of these individuals die as a direct result of the infection.
Speaking at the meeting, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
appealed to all in attendance that antimicrobial resistance poses “a fundamental, long-term threat to human health, sustainable food production and development.”
“If we fail to address this problem quickly and comprehensively, antimicrobial resistance will make providing high quality universal health coverage more difficult, if not impossible,” said the Secretary-General.
The scale and scope of the problem belies how tiny the targets are—virulent and drug-resistant strains of microscopic bacteria such as Clostridium difficile
, Enterobacteriaceae, Salmonella
, and Staphylococcus aureus
, as well as viral pathogens and parasites. Human development and frequent use of antimicrobial drugs have helped speed up the process by which microbes build resistance and become stronger. Previously easily treatable infections now vex hospitals and healthcare facilities around the world, creating life-threatening infections that are causing hospitalization rates, healthcare costs, and deaths to continue to rise.