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The Global Security Threat of Antimicrobial Resistance

The fight against infectious diseases is headed backward, as once-beatable microbes become resistant to existing therapies. The massive economic and political repercussions of future epidemics suggests that the development of new treatments must be considered in the context of global security, not just public health.

SEATTLE – Today we are faced with the harsh reality that the treatment or prevention of infectious diseases has not made quantum advances since the early successes of vaccines and antimicrobial therapies. In a sense, the world is headed backward, as once-treatable microbes become resistant to existing therapies, and new infections for which there are no effective interventions continue to arise.

The situation represents a serious and imminent threat to the world. Witness the global impact of the 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa or the 2003 SARS outbreak, which jeopardized even wealthy economies like Singapore and Canada.

The emergence of a highly lethal and rapidly spreading antimicrobial-resistant infection would lead to untold numbers of deaths and unimaginable misery. The consequences could be similar in magnitude to a large-scale terrorist attack. Communities could be walled off, national borders closed, and travel could be restricted or even suspended. Health systems could disintegrate or collapse, as could economies.

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