The United Nations Environment Programme UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen says at least 10 million deaths will be recorded each year worldwide by 5050 due to antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
Andersen says scattergun and careless use of this superweapon are increasing the emergence of antimicrobial-resistant superbugs and increasing other instances of antimicrobial resistance, or AMR, at critical levels.
He observed that a key pathway for AMR is through pollution of the environment by the pharmaceutical, agriculture, and healthcare sectors, and municipal systems.
“This leakage increases the ability of organisms that can harm us to build up resistance to drugs,” He said in a statement during the launch of UNEP’s report on antimicrobial resistance.
The wider triple planetary crisis of climate change, nature, and biodiversity loss, and pollution and waste contribute further to the development and spread of AMR – through higher temperatures and extreme weather events, land-use changes, and biological and chemical pollution
He observed that already millions of people die each year from AMR across the world.
“If we continue to pour antimicrobials into the environment – through runoff from farms, effluents from manufacturing pharmaceuticals, disposal of hospital waste and municipal wastewater – we can expect at least 10 million deaths each year by 2050,” Anderson said adding that in a world profoundly skewed in favor of wealthy nations and communities, AMR will hit the most vulnerable the hardest.
The report indicated that in some countries 85 percent of all pesticide applications on commercial farms and plantations are done by women – often working while pregnant or breastfeeding.
Andersen also projected that by 2030, AMR could cause a fall in GDP of USD 3.4 trillion per year.
This could push an extra 24 million people into extreme poverty.
“The bottom line is that getting serious about AMR means preventing environmental pollution. Limiting the discharge of antimicrobial-laced waste to the environment is important for everyone – because every sector is guilty of adding to the AMR burden. I won’t get into every specific recommendation of the report, as there are many, but let’s cover a few.”
He called upon the pharmaceutical sector must upgrade manufacturing processes, overseen by strong regulatory and inspection systems.
The agriculture sector was urged to look hard at pesticide use and avoid using antibiotics that correspond to those used as a last resort in human medicine.
In the healthcare sector, strong infection prevention control programs to reduce antimicrobial use and wastewater treatment to prevent biological pollution can limit environmental contamination.
“Significant momentum on AMR has developed, including through the Global Leaders Group and the Quadripartite Alliance. We must use this momentum to bring change. Investment in new and affordable antimicrobials and other preventative measures should grow, but we must stop the pollution at source to ensure this superweapon retains its power.”