By 2040, a coordinated global effort to tackle antimicrobial resistance has saved millions of lives around the world. Microbes responsible for many common illnesses had mutated into “superbugs” resistant to conventional drugs — antimicrobials — threatening to undo decades of progress in improving health outcomes. But the tide has been turned and antimicrobial resistance has been halted, if not put into retreat.
The successful campaign against antimicrobial resistance has bought precious time for medical science to develop new diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines for emerging or previously untreatable diseases.
More efficient treatment of neonatal sepsis, malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis has driven down the crippling impact of these diseases. Healthcare services now have increased capacity to treat other health conditions, with fewer patients contracting untreatable infections during their time in the hospital.
The situation could have been very different. Overuse of antimicrobial drugs was making them ineffective against the bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites responsible for a host of diseases.
In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the US each year. This led to more than 35,000 deaths annually. Meanwhile, the UK government’s 2016 review on antimicrobial resistance predicted that by 2050 drug-resistant diseases would cause 10 million additional deaths per year worldwide, with a cumulative global economic cost of $100 trillion.
Instead, populations are healthier worldwide as a result of the fight against antimicrobial resistance, which has focused on preventative healthcare, including more active lifestyles, better diets, and improved hygiene.
In low- and middle-income countries in particular, life expectancy has increased and maternal and child mortality rates are significantly lower. Clean drinking water, effective sanitation, and greater food security have driven down rates of common diseases and banished widespread gastrointestinal illness. Fewer children suffer from stunted growth and school attendance has risen steadily, boosting educational attainment. In the adult population, employment is less disrupted and productivity has increased.
Improved health enables individuals to thrive and prosper — and economies too.
This is how.