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Antimicrobial resistance needs a greater role on the Global Political Agenda

The reality we face is grim: the sustained abuse and overuse of our limited stock of antibiotics will seriously impact humanity’s future and will claim more lives than global warming.  One major UK study (O’Neill) calculates that 10 million people will die annually of infections in 2050 (versus only 700,000 currently), exceeding the mortality rate from cancer, diabetes and cholera combined. Looking at the limited scale global investments in support of new antimicrobials to deal with this growing AMR threat versus the massive annual investments for cancer or diabetes research and therapies, one is stupefied. There is just simply not enough human or financial resources being applied to this top 5 threat to humanity. 

Healthcare providers, and even medical doctors themselves, need to understand that there will not always be an effective antibiotic at their immediate disposal. The day of completely resistant microorganisms has already arrived. Infection data should be completely transparent and compared in the pursuit of enforcing universal compliance to best practises. We should call out healthcare providers for their high infection rates, rewarding those with consistent demonstrated superior infection control practises and outcomes. As with all problems, meaningful solutions will only come when the problems and scale are truly understood (data), when resources to tackle the problem are right-sized (capital) and when the desired solution outcomes are properly incentivized (rewards).  To access these success factors, we need government commitment.

The AMR issue is largely under-represented politically, I believe, because socialized, governmental bureaucracies responsible for healthcare systems are not motivated to publicize the extent of the infection control problems and their impact on patient outcomes. No one wants to “own the problem” despite the fact that healthcare associated infections (HAI) are the 4th or 5th leading cause of death and “Should Not Happen”. HAIs are said to cost the US healthcare system $45 billion annually, and this is before taking into account the anticipated rise in resistance rates over the next 30 years. This $45 billion cost represents an annual ‘hospital infection tax’ to society currently costing $137 for every man, woman and child living in America. Unfortunately, the HAI rates and costs in other countries are unknown and not tracked. The lack of publicity of infection rates around the world is impacting the opportunity for change.

Infections are a tax on our societies and we should consider approaching AMR this way.  The question is how much of an infection tax burden will be endured before we opt for intervention? If we can consider resources to put a man on Mars, shouldn’t we first be helping more men (and women) here on earth?

Carolyn Cross, CEO/Chairman of Ondine Biomedical. Passionate Resistance Fighter.

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