It is estimated that annually about 700,000 people die as a result of community or hospital based infectious diseases caused by bugs resistant to antimicrobials. A recent report by the World Bank, entitled Drug-Resistant Infections: A Threat to Our Economic Future, reported that if effective measures are not taken, AMR could result in a loss of up to 3.8 percent of global GDP by 2050, with poorer countries bearing the brunt of the loss. Yet, despite its importance, many countries have struggled in dealing with this issue.
While the last half century has seen major advances in global health, new challenges are now threatening these hard-won health gains. One of these is antimicrobial resistance (AMR), or drug-resistant infections which can no longer be treated by antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs. AMR is on the increase globally both in humans and animals.
While recent health crises, such as the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa, have caused much human and economic devastation in the affected countries and tested the resolve of the international community, the past hundred years have witnessed dramatic improvements in human health not seen in previous centuries when life was in most cases “poor, nasty, brutish and short” as Thomas Hobbes, the English philosopher, observed in the 17th Century.
It really caught my attention when a friend of mine, an otherwise healthy chest physician in his late 40s, told me recently that he almost died of pneumonia. He had to be hospitalized twice, given an IV cocktail of antibiotics each time, only to recover about a month later, totally drained and weak. He told me that it was caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae -- a bacterial infection increasingly resistant to antibiotics and known to strike the immunocompromised, frail and alcoholics -- which he thought he must have gotten from a patient. He considered himself lucky to have survived.