Tackling drug-resistant infections will take global effort, say York U health experts

Superbugs and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) continue to raise the alarm globally and prevent the effective prevention and treatment of infections. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), drug-resistant infections could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and are increasingly a threat to global public health.

One of the biggest factors accelerating antimicrobial resistance is the overuse and over-prescription of antibiotics. World Antibiotic Awareness Week is Nov. 18 to 24, and in a new commentary published in the journal The Lancet titled, “A roadmap for sustainably governing the global antimicrobial commons,” senior author Steven J. Hoffman, professor of global health, law, and political science at York University, writes about the need for a global strategy. “Antimicrobial resistance is the defining contemporary test for whether countries are able to sustainably govern a global common-pool resource as important as antibiotics,” said Hoffman.”The international community must act now to ensure sustainable access to effective antibiotics, both for the millions of people who rely on them each day and for the millions more who have yet to benefit from their life-saving potential.”

The Lancet commentary offers three calls for action:

  1. Convening a One Health high-level dialogue at the UN General Assembly on AMR to follow up on recommendations of the UN Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, endorse key governance principles, and mandate a new high-level leaders’ group for AMR.
  2. Creating a new policy forum on AMR to facilitate multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder discussions, coordinate collective actions, assess efforts, and provide accountability.
  3. Commissioning an independent scientific stock-take to inform policy decisions on AMR and support the efforts of WHO, FAO, OIE, UNEP, and other multilateral institutions.

Hoffman is an international lawyer and director of the Global Strategy Lab in York University’s Faculty of Health and Osgoode Hall Law School where he specializes in global health law, global governance and institutional design. His research focuses on developing strategies that better address transnational health threats and social inequalities.

From left: Susan Rogers Van Katwyk and Steven Hoffman

“Countries need to step up to protect the effectiveness of lifesaving antibiotics,” said the commentary’s first author, Susan Rogers Van Katwyk. “To do this, we need political leadership, collaboration, and an independent platform where researchers can take stock of the existing science and suggest best practices and policies for the future.”

Rogers Van Katwyk is an epidemiologist and research director for Global Antimicrobial Resistance at the Global Strategy Lab at York University. Her research analyzes and evaluates national and international policy to address transnational health threats. She has worked closely with the World Health Organization, the AMR Tripartite and governments around the world to develop strategies to protect the global antimicrobial commons.