193 countries sign UN Declaration to combat antimicrobial resistance

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193 countries have signed a landmark declaration agreeing to combat antimicrobial resistance.

The historic agreement was signed at the United Nations General Assembly in New York and follows a worldwide campaign led by the Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to highlight the threat posed to modern medicine by resistance to antibiotics.

The nations have committed to tackle drug resistant infections as a priority. They have agreed to:

  • Develop surveillance and regulatory systems on the use and sales of antimicrobial medicines for humans and animals.
  • Encourage innovative ways to develop new antibiotics, and improve rapid diagnostics.
  • Conduct awareness-raising activities to educate health professionals and the public on how to prevent drug resistant infections.

It is estimated that over 700,000 people die annually due to drug-resistant infections such as TB, HIV and malaria. However, because of the lack of global data, it is feared that the real number is likely to be much higher. If left unchecked, drug-resistant infections will kill 10 million people a year and cost the worldwide economy $100 trillion by 2050. Simple surgeries could become life-threatening, infections such as gonorrhoea could become untreatable, and chemotherapy would not be possible.

The World Health Organization has called antimicrobial resistance an ‘increasingly serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society’.

This is only the fourth UN Declaration on a health issue, following interventions on HIV in 2001, Non Communicable Diseases in 2011, and Ebola in 2014.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer said: “This Declaration is the culmination of six years of hard work and I am extremely proud that every UN member state is now engaged in the enormous task of tackling the greatest future threat to our civilisation…now the real work begins. We need governments, the pharmaceutical industry, health professionals and the agricultural sector to follow through on their commitments to save modern medicine.”

The UN Secretary General will now convene a group including UN agencies to accelerate action and report back in two years.