UN General Assembly Elevates Antibiotic Resistance to Crisis Level
By Dr. Judy Monroe, president & CEO of the CDC Foundation
What do we do if antibiotics no longer work and are no longer the “miracle drug” we’ve all come to take for granted since at least the 1940s? This question was a key topic at the 71st session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in New York City at the end of September, and weighed heavily on my mind. This was only the fourth time in UN history that a health issue has been the topic of the main high level meeting at the assembly, where heads of state dig deeper into one key issue affecting the world. For anti-microbial resistance to be elevated in such a manner shows that we are facing a serious global problem if we don’t find solutions now.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections – globally, studies estimate those annual deaths to be 700,000 million.
Major themes from the meeting included the need for cross-sector and multi-stakeholder collaboration to combat antibiotic resistance. There was broad recognition that antibiotic resistance is a complex problem that requires multi-faceted solutions. Importantly, 193 UN member countries agreed to a political declaration that commits individual governments to taking key steps to address antimicrobial resistance.
In a side session at the UN General Assembly, the CDC Foundation hosted a timely conversation about this global health threat. Many key global leaders were present at this meeting, including CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., Rebecca Martin, Ph.D., director of CDC’s Center for Global Health, the South African health attaché to the United States, and representatives from academia and vaccine organizations. During this session, Dr. Frieden expressed his concern that we may be moving into a “post-antibiotic era,” which would turn back the clock on medical and public health advances. Dr. Frieden stressed the need for collaboration through the Global Health Security Agenda, an effort by nations, international organizations and civil society to accelerate progress toward a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats. The session also highlighted the danger drug resistance places on key U.S. and global programs fighting malaria and tuberculosis.
A key message that I took from this session is the need for a concerted effort between the public and private sector, academia and civil society to address this issue with a commitment to share knowledge and resources. No one group is going to tackle this issue alone.
I am excited for the opportunities ahead to help combat this global health threat. We can all do so much more when we work together. The CDC Foundation looks forward to doing our part to make real progress working with CDC on this challenge.