Bacteria cultures

Antimicrobial Resistance on the Global Agenda

Last month, the leaders of the G-20 agreed to put antimicrobial resistance on the group's agenda. The decision came not a moment too soon, as it coincided with some very bad news: the discovery of a strain of bacteria that is resistant even to antibiotics of last resort.

LONDON – November marked a setback in the fight against drug-resistant infections. Scientists announced that they had found bacteria that were resistant to colistin, known as an antibiotic of last resort. Even more alarming, they discovered that the gene providing the resistance could migrate from one strain of bacteria to another, meaning other types of infections could also become untreatable. The announcement prompted public health experts to renew their warnings that the world risks slipping into a deadly, post-antibiotic era.

But November also brought some good news – even if it received less notice. When the G-20 met in Antalya, the leaders of the world’s largest economies agreed that antimicrobial resistance was a threat to global growth. Buried in the last paragraph of the communiqué issued at the conclusion of the summit was an agreement to put the issue on the agenda of the organization’s next meeting. “We agree that attention should be given to global health risks, such as antimicrobial resistance, infectious disease threats, and weak health systems,” read the communiqué. “These can significantly impact growth and stability.”

This is an important development. The G-20 would be an ideal forum in which to take international action against antimicrobial resistance. The countries most at risk from the problem include Brazil, Russia, India, and China (the BRICs), none of which is a G-7 member. These countries are also among those most likely to find solutions to the challenge. Furthermore, the attendees at the G-20’s summits include heads of state and economic ministers, without whom no solution can be implemented.

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