Review of progress on antimicrobial resistance

This report from the UK think tank Chatham House reviews progress on antimicrobial resistance since 2016.

A startling lack of progress on critical recommendations to tackle antimicrobial resistance is highlighted in this new global progress report, as well as opportunities for further action and key obstacles that need to be overcome. The 2016 Review on Antimicrobial Resistance has had a global impact: as an advocacy tool, in raising the profile of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) on the international agenda, and in helping to stimulate a number of new initiatives, in particular relating to the funding of early-stage research. However, there has been very little progress on the review’s central and most expensive recommendations for transforming research and development incentives for antibiotics, vaccines and diagnostics.

There have been significant advances in reducing antibiotic use in agriculture, particularly in high-income countries, but there is a long way to go in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). There has been greater investment in awareness raising but questions remain about its impact and effectiveness in changing behaviour. Proposals to restrict over-the-counter sales of antibiotics, as recommended by the Review, have foundered in the face of poor living conditions and access to healthcare in LMICs. A major reason for the use of antibiotics in LMICs is the prevalence of unhygienic conditions in the community and in healthcare facilities, which contribute to infection and limit the impact of messages about awareness and infection prevention and control. Providing quality healthcare to all and moving towards universal health coverage in LMICs will be crucial in addressing the problems of both adequate access to antibiotics and in restricting over-the-counter sales. A greater emphasis on investments in water, sanitation and housing will be central to reducing reliance on antibiotics in LMICs in the longer term.

This agenda should inform the operations of governments and funding agencies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. Investments have been made in improving surveillance of antibiotic use and resistance, particularly for humans, but more effort is required to create surveillance systems that provide data sufficiently accurate to influence policy and action. This applies also to antibiotics and resistant genes circulating in the environment. The emerging innovations in the global governance of AMR need to lead to action rather than more words.

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