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Drug resistant infections threaten to become next pandemic

Christian Fernsby |
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) drastically rises threatening to turn into the next pandemic with serious implications for health, agri food systems and economies.

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FAO is calling on actors across all sectors, from farmers to cooks, producers to consumers, to accelerate efforts to prevent the spread of drug resistant microbes.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the ability of microbes to persist or grow in the presence of drugs designed to inhibit or kill them. The process is accelerated by the use of antimicrobials designed to kill unwanted pathogens in humans, animals and crops. In particular, the use of antimicrobials in human and animal health is fuelling resistance.

Currently, at least 700 000 people die each year due to drug resistant diseases. More and more common diseases, including respiratory tract infections, sexually transmitted infections and urinary tract infections, are becoming harder to treat. Drug resistance is also increasingly threatening our agri-food systems and global food security.

Coronavirus has shown us that human, animal and environmental health are more interdependent than ever before. Pathogens affecting one area can exacerbate challenges in others and have an enormous impact on how we prevent and control health threats to safeguard the world.

AMR is one of these global threats, and it is potentially even more dangerous than coronavirus. It is profoundly changing life as we know it.

Food and agriculture sectors have a pivotal role to play in tackling AMR. In many parts of the world, antimicrobial use is far greater in animals than in humans, and it is rapidly increasing as our populations grow and global demand for food increases.

AMR is spreading quicker than scientists can develop new antimicrobials and is threatening global food systems, food security, food safety, health systems and economies. Our only solution is to take strategic action to keep the antimicrobials we have working. It is not too late, but time is running out to stop this devastation from worsening, FAO warned.

On 23 November, the UN Agency will launch a new community of behaviour change practitioners to design solutions that make it easier for people to use antimicrobials appropriately and prevent disease effectively.

Combining a wealth of insights from farmers and other food chain actors, veterinarians, epidemiologists, AMR experts and behavioural scientists, this community of practice will work together to ‘nudge' behaviours at both farm and policy level to help slow down the spread of AMR.

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