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UN delegates agree to tackle threat of antimicrobial resistance

Published 21/09/2016

Professor Dame Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, said the declaration is the culmination of six years of hard work
Professor Dame Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, said the declaration is the culmination of six years of hard work

UN delegates are to sign a "landmark" declaration agreeing to help tackle the threat of antimicrobial resistance, health officials have said.

The agreement follows a UK drive to raise global awareness of the threat posed to modern medicine by antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

If antibiotics lose their effectiveness then key medical procedures - including gut surgery, caesarean sections, joint replacements and chemotherapy - could become too dangerous to perform.

Health leaders from around the world have raised serious concerns about the growing resistance to antimicrobial drugs. These are the drugs which destroy harmful microbes. Antibiotics are the best known of these drugs, but there are others - such as antivirals, antimalarial drugs and antifungals.

The declaration will be signed by officials from 193 countries at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Every signatory will agree to; d evelop surveillance and regulatory systems on the use and sales of antimicrobial medicines for humans and animals, e ncourage innovative ways to develop new antibiotics and raise awareness on how to prevent drug resistant infections.

Around 700,000 people around the world die annually due to drug-resistant infections such as TB, HIV and malaria. If no action is taken, it has been estimated that drug-resistant infections will kill 10 million people a year by 2050.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, England's chief medical officer, said: "This declaration is the culmination of six years of hard work and I am extremely proud that every UN member state is now engaged in the enormous task of tackling the greatest future threat to our civilisation.

"Drug-resistant infections are firmly on the global agenda, but now the real work begins. We need governments, the pharmaceutical industry, health professionals and the agricultural sector to follow through on their commitments to save modern medicine."

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt added: "Antimicrobial resistance is perhaps our biggest global health threat - it could nullify the progress of over a century of modern medicine and kill millions.

"So I am proud that this country has led the charge and rallied the international action necessary to tackle the problem.

"We are determined to build on our domestic achievements - thanks to the hard work of NHS staff, hospital acquired infections have been halved, and GPs prescribed 2.7 million fewer items this year compared to last - but we'll couple that with global leadership as together we face up to a huge challenge."

Earlier this year, Lord O'Neill called for a 2 billion US dollars (£1.5bn) investment in global innovation funding to tackle AMR by 2020 following his review on the subject.

At the event in New York, global leaders will pledge 790 million US dollars (£610m).

Lord O'Neill set out a series of key recommendations to help combat the threat of AMR.

One of his proposals suggests that big pharmaceutical companies should "play or pay" - meaning they either join the search to hunt for new antibiotics or be forced to pay a fine. Those who do and find successful new treatments should be rewarded handsomely.

Another called for better use of diagnostic tools to prevent patients being given antibiotics unnecessarily.

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