Vaccine syringe

Vaccines Versus Superbugs

The Zika virus – like Ebola before it – has focused international attention on how vaccines can contain unexpected outbreaks of infectious diseases. But vaccines also have an important role to play in protecting us against a far more deadly and far more predictable threat: drug-resistance infections.

LONDON – The outbreak of the Zika virus, like Ebola before it, has highlighted the risk that infectious diseases can pose to the health of entire countries – and the importance of vaccines to the fight against fast-moving epidemics. Indeed, efforts are already underway to find ways to inoculate people against both viruses.

But vaccines also have a crucial role to play in protecting us against a far deadlier and far more predictable threat: drug-resistant infections.

In contrast to unexpected, rapidly spreading outbreaks such as the Zika epidemic, antimicrobial resistance is like a slow-motion car crash that has already begun. Resistant pathogens cause about 700,000 deaths every year. If we fail to take the necessary precautions, they will be killing some ten million people a year by 2050.