The Guardian view on antimicrobial resistance: we must prioritise this global health threat | Editorial

Patients are already dying as wonder drugs lose their effectiveness. International action is urgently needed

As apocalyptic horror stories go, it’s up there with the scariest. Yet it’s not fiction writers but top scientists who are warning of how the world could look once superbugs develop resistance to the remaining drugs against them in our hospital pharmacies. Patients will die who can currently be cured; routine surgery will become dangerous or impossible. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – it happens not only with bacteria but also viruses, fungi and parasites – is one of the top global public health threats facing humanity, says the World Health Organization (WHO). It kills 1.3 million people and contributes to 5 million deaths every year, predicted to be 10 million by 2050. In addition to the appalling human toll, it will increase the strain on and costs of health services. But is it high enough up the agenda? Covid-19 knocked it off, and the climate crisis gets more attention. AMR does not so often get top billing.

This week efforts have been made to change that, with talks at the UN triggering wider coverage chronicling the sorry plight we are in. From the pharmaceutical industry to the WHO to NHS England, the same tune is being played: we are not doing enough to avert disaster.

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