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Where Is the AMR Rebellion?

With extreme weather events becoming more frequent and young climate activists keeping the pressure on governments, policymakers and business leaders have finally begun to focus on the threat of climate change. The growing threat to human wellbeing posed by antimicrobial resistance merits a similar level of attention.

LONDON – The threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is being overshadowed by the menace of climate change. Though the AMR problem is arguably equal in importance, it has not commanded nearly the same level of public awareness.

One reason for this is obvious: the climate crisis is becoming an increasingly visible phenomenon. We Brits are no longer alone in obsessing about the weather. From staggering heat waves in Europe and droughts in South Africa and Asia to wildfires in Brazil, Indonesia, California, and the outskirts of Sydney, the effects of climate change are evident everywhere. And these constant images have created a groundswell of public opinion. Helped along by climate activists like Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion, business leaders and policymakers are now more focused on climate change than ever before.

But what about AMR, and specifically the growing resistance to standard antibiotics? Media outlets around the world still regularly cite the two big takeaways from the independent Review on Antimicrobial Resistance that I led in 2014-2016. If we don’t reduce our dependency on unnecessary antibiotics and succeed in developing new ones (or alternatives such as vaccines), annual deaths stemming from AMR could reach ten million by 2050. And on the economic front, the total costs of this failure (from 2015 to 2050) could top $100 trillion.

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