World health officials call for global action on antimicrobial resistance

Health officials across the world recently called on lawmakers to do more to address the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which may hamper the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases.

The call came during a gathering of ministers of health and agriculture from the World Health Organization and its member states in The Hague last week. Officials at the summit highlighted the links between antimicrobial use in animals and the rising threat among humans, calling for the development of a global action plan advocated by the World Health Assembly to address AMR.

"Resistance to antimicrobials places much of the progress made in health care and medicine over the past decades at significant risk," the officials said in a joint statement. "Reducing antimicrobial resistance will require a One Health approach combining efforts of many stakeholders and sectors, especially in the fields of health, agriculture and aquaculture to work together using synergistic and complementary approaches. The effectiveness and future use of antimicrobials must be preserved for the treatment of human and animal diseases."

According to the WHO, in the European Union alone, five to 12 percent of hospital patients acquire an infection during their stay-400,000 present with a drug-resistant strain, of whom 25,000 die on average. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control said at least 23,000 people die each year as a result of drug-resistant infections.

The officials called for a cross-governmental approach to AMR, the "prudent and restrained use of antimicrobials" in human and veterinary medicine and prevention in the food chain as well as the health sector.

Additionally, the ministers and health officials suggested public-private partnerships as a way to develop new antimicrobial and diagnostic technologies, as well as vaccines.

"Antibiotic resistance can spread, not only from human to human but also through the food chain and the environment," Zsuzsanna Jakab, the Europe regional director for the WHO, said. "Thus, tackling it requires multifaceted approaches. Intersectoral and interdisciplinary collaboration and information sharing are crucial."