SUPERBUGSuperbug Threat Grows

Published 13 February 2023

A new report provides evidence that the environment plays a key role in the development, transmission and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).  Prevention is at the core of the action and environment is a key part of the solution.

A new report from the UN Environmental Program (UNEP) — —  Bracing for Superbugs: Strengthening Environmental Action in the One Health Response to Antimicrobial Resistance — provides evidence that the environment plays a key role in the development, transmission and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).  Prevention is at the core of the action and environment is a key part of the solution.

UNEP says that the report aims to demystify and unpack the different, while interconnected, aspects of the environmental dimensions of AMR, offering a comprehensive overview of scientific findings on the subject. It provides actionable evidence of the importance of the environment in the development, transmission and spread of AMR, and it shows that environmental dimensions of AMR are multifaceted and the response rests on collaboration between sectors. A concerted systems approach such as “One Health,” which recognizes that the health of people, animals, plants and the environment are closely linked and interdependent, is the approach needed to tackle it.

This report analyzes the three economic sectors and their value chains that are key drivers of AMR development and spread in the environment: pharmaceuticals and other chemicals, agriculture and food, and healthcare, together with pollutants from poor sanitation, sewage and waste effluent in municipal systems. The report synthesizes current knowledge gaps, and it shows that while several actions are ongoing, more needs to be done and offers solutions to prevent and respond to AMR.

A One Health response to AMR will not only help reduce the risk and burden of AMR on societies but will also help address the triple planetary crisis.

Here is the report’s Executive Summary:

Executive Summary
Antimicrobials have been essential in reducing the burden of infectious disease in humans, animals and plants for decades. However, their effectiveness is now in jeopardy because several antibiotic, antiviral, antiparasitic and antifungal treatments no longer work because of antimicrobial resistance or AMR.

The World Health Organization considers AMR in humans and animals to be one of the top ten threats to global health. Estimates suggest that by 2050 up to 10 million deaths could occur annually affecting economies and shifting more people into poverty. If not dealt with, AMR could also significantly affect agricultural production, again affecting economies and food security, and low-income and lower middle-income countries will bear most of the burden.