The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has warned that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is no longer an abstract future threat to the world’s food security, health and economy. If left unchecked, they say, the next pandemic could be bacterial and may be much deadlier, especially if the drugs needed to treat it do not work.
This was made known through a report published on the FAO’s website, which advised that at least 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases and that everyone has a role to play in combatting AMR, including those operating within the food and agriculture sectors.
Antimicrobial resistance refers to when microbes such as viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi develop immunity to antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines, making infections more difficult to treat and increasing the risk of transmission, severe illness and death.
The cost of these drug-resistant pathogens to economies and health systems around the world is alarming, particularly given their effect on the productivity of workers who fall ill and those who care for them during prolonged hospital stays, which are both expensive and resource intensive.
Maria Semedo, the FAO’s deputy director-general, noted that people, animals and plants are already dying of infections that, even with the strongest antimicrobial drugs, cannot be treated.
Semedo likened AMR to the COVID-19 pandemic currently affecting the lives of everyone across the globe, adding that drug resistance is no longer a future menace as it is already happening.
According to the FAO’s report:
“COVID-19 has shown us that human, animal and environmental health are more interdependent than ever before. Pathogens affecting one area can exacerbate challenges in others and have an enormous impact on how we prevent and control health threats to safeguard the world.
“AMR is one of these global threats and it is potentially even more dangerous than COVID-19. It is profoundly changing life as we know it.”