Tackling the drug-resistance pandemic – 2020 and beyond
It may seem strange when discussing tackling antibiotic resistance, but in this viewpoint, I will start by talking about SARS-CoV-2, the virus that is causing the COVID-19 pandemic. Other diseases caused by viruses include chickenpox which is caused by the varicella-zoster virus or Ebola by ebolaviruses. When we talk about these, we never talk about tackling all these viruses at the same time. However, that is exactly what we do when we talk about addressing antibiotic resistance: we group together many different bacteria, drug resistances and infections. It is much easier to focus attention on single infections.
The antibiotic resistance pandemic is with us
There are millions of cases of infections by various species of drug-resistant bacteria worldwide and so it is safe to say that the world is already in the midst of an antimicrobial resistance pandemic. However, the impact of this pandemic has hardly been felt by those who live in high-income countries. This is because there is considerable choice of and access to antibiotics. Despite this, there are tens of thousands of untreatable infections each year in these countries (e.g. USA1) and even more in low- and middle-income countries. Unfortunately, unlike COVID-19, many of these deaths by drug-resistant infections are hidden and if documented are usually recorded with a different cause of death, such as cancer or sepsis. If people realised how many deaths were caused by drug-resistant infections across the world they would act as quickly as they have for COVID-19.
This Viewpoint was originally published on the REVIVE website revive.gardp.org, an activity of the Global Antibiotic Research & Development Partnership (GARDP).
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