An employee at work at a packing line of the Biokhimik plant manufacturing antibiotics Stanislav Krasilnikov\TASS via Getty Images

Where Are We in the Fight Against AMR?

In recent years, global awareness about the threat posed by drug-resistant microbes has increased, particularly within global-governance bodies such as the G20 and the United Nations. But awareness alone will not rescue us from "superbugs," which could claim more than ten million lives per year by 2050.

LONDON – To mark the second anniversary of the British government’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), which I had the honor of chairing, two members of the Review team – Anthony McDonnell and Will Hall – and I have published a new book: Superbugs: An Arms Race Against Bacteria. In it, we discuss the Review’s ten recommended interventions – what I call the Ten Commandments – while considering the progress made so far, and the work that still needs to be done.

The first part of the book provides a detailed history of our understanding of bacteria and drug resistance, and points to evidence that drug resistance may now be rising faster than we had assumed. For example, colistin, which is generally regarded as one of the last usable antibiotics in humans after others have failed, is losing its effectiveness, owing to overuse in animal farming, notably in China. And, equally disturbing, reports of drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea are becoming more frequent.

In the Review, we predicted that if current trends continue, ten million people could die every year by 2050, at a loss of some $100 trillion in global economic output since 2015. But now there is reason to fear that the situation could turn out even worse. To ensure that it does not, the second part of the book focuses on solutions, and compiles expert viewpoints from many of those we interviewed for the Review.

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