Experts agree that a holistic approach encompassing human, animal, plant, and environmental health is the only way to effectively fight antimicrobial resistance. Dr. Anthony Huszar sees infrastructure as another key battleground.
A communique from the health ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies on June 4, 2021, reaffirmed their war on “superbugs” — microbes responsible for common illnesses that have become resistant to conventional treatments.
Antimicrobial resistance is a growing global threat that, if left unaddressed, will cause 10 million additional deaths per year, globally, by 2050, with a cumulative global economic cost of $100 trillion. The communique underlined the importance of a holistic “One Health” approach that views human, animal, plant, and environmental health as interlinked.
“We encourage close coordination and collaboration including full integration of environmental and ecosystem work,” the G7 health ministers said. “This is crucial in order to improve the international system’s ability to prevent, detect, report and respond to current and future health threats, including by promoting transparency and facilitating the rapid sharing of data, samples and information.”
The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and the World Health Organization (WHO) have joined forces to make a One Health approach central to their work. Most people in the field of infectious disease control and prevention are delighted by the commitment, collaboration, and hope provided for the future.
In addition to human, animal, plant, and environmental health, One Health should also encompass the built environment and infrastructure. From the poorest nations to the richest, pollution and degradation of the natural environment cuts lives short and contributes to a wide swathe of illnesses. Much of that pollution and degradation arises from building, operating, and using infrastructure.
Infrastructure also plays a part in harboring germs and spreading infection, as illustrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which was spread via everything from escalator handles, the buttons of ATM cash dispensers, and grab rails on public transportation to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
Transportation systems circulated the coronavirus around the world in a matter of weeks. While COVID-19 is caused by a virus, similar transmission pathways should be considered for bacterial infections, particularly antimicrobial-resistant bacteria.
One Health: Three levels
A One Health approach to tackling antimicrobial resistance can be divided into three operational levels, affecting the infrastructure industry in different ways: