12th May 2020

Antibiotic resistance is a slow-motion pandemic – whose speed will increase because of COVID-19. A concentrated global effort is now needed to ensure it is addressed with the same urgency that’s likely to bring us a COVID-19 vaccine in the months ahead...

“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unforeseen pressures on global health care systems as they quickly try to adapt to the massive influx of patients who require critical care. However, the global response to identifying therapeutic solutions that will help tackle the virus is a lesson in cooperation and a testament to what can be achieved when borders change from barriers to bridges. Examples of this include the numerous parallel vaccine trials underway, maximizing the probability of success and governments pledging billions to the World Health Organisation in an effort to halt the pandemic. 

In the coming months, as we hopefully begin to emerge from the shadow of COVID-19, we must recognise other crises that are threatening our health care systems and acknowledge the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on them. Antibiotic resistance is a pandemic, that although moving at a slower pace than the current COVID-19 pandemic, has the potential to lead to 10 million deaths per year by 2050. The ongoing antibiotic resistance crisis will undoubtedly be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as antibiotic usage in hospitals increases and more COVID-19 patients become challenged by secondary – potentially antibiotic resistant – infections.

As has been seen with COVID-19, the earlier the threat is acknowledged and a robust response implemented, the more lives are saved. This holds true for the antibiotic resistance crisis also. Once this current viral pandemic has abated, the development of new antibiotics needs to treated with the same level of urgency as the development of a COVID-19 vaccine has been. This will require a unified global effort, industry incentivisation and large-scale funding akin to what is being seen in the search for COVID-19 therapeutics. This concentrated global effort is – now more than ever – critical to treat the multidrug resistant pathogens that are spreading through our healthcare infrastructure.”

Dr Ronan McCarthy BSc, PhD, FHEA, Lecturer in Biosciences, Brunel University London


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