oneill20_Tony Karumba_Stringer_Getty Images_TB patients Tony Karumba/Stringer/Getty Images

On Antimicrobial Resistance, It’s Now or Never

The human and economic toll of rising antimicrobial resistance is set to spiral out of control: left unchecked, drug-resistant infections could claim ten million lives each year by 2050, and cost global GDP a cumulative $100 trillion. We can avert this bleak future only if we launch an effective response immediately.

LONDON – We often take it for granted that any infection we encounter can be cured, and that all-powerful modern medicine will do precisely what it is supposed to do.

But imagine an alternative scenario: You are diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening infectious disease that was once treatable in weeks or months, but you are told that your treatment will take at least two years, and will involve months of daily injections and some 14,000 pills, with severe side effects. You are one of a “lucky” minority to have been diagnosed and treated at all, but your odds of beating the disease are still only 50-50.

Most of us would not associate this scenario with “modern medicine,” but it is a tragic reality for the ranks of people – 500,000 and growing – suffering from multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. MDR-TB is what happens when drugs lose potency against new strains of previously treatable infections. TB is now the world’s deadliest infectious disease, killing well over one million people every year, and MDR-TB continues to spread in low- and middle-income countries as health-care providers struggle to combat it.

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