20th January 2022

The landmark Global Research on Antimicrobial Resistance (GRAM) report, which was published in The Lancet today, will ring alarm bells at the highest levels of government, health leaders and policymakers around the world. The report, which reviews data from 204 countries and territories, gives the best estimate yet of the scale of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) globally.

The results make for grim reading, indicating that more than 1.2 million people died worldwide in 2019 from infections caused by antibiotic-resistant infections, casting AMR as, unequivocally, a leading cause of death worldwide. The report also highlights young children, particularly those under-fives, and those living in low-and middle-income countries as being particularly at risk.

As one of the world’s leading networks of infection specialists, we welcome the scale of this report. While gaps in data mean it still provides an incomplete picture, it nevertheless gives us our clearest picture yet of the impact and spread of AMR around the globe. It is incredibly useful to see the data broken down to specific organisms, which will perhaps allow priorities according to which pathogens pose the most immediate risks.

As with other existential threats, such as COVID and climate change, there will be the usual quibbles about the precise extent to which AMR contributes to each death. While it’s right to keep pushing for better data, this should not distract us from the central message this report implies: millions are already dying unnecessarily around the world and without vigorous global leadership and investment, millions more will lose their lives to AMR. 

While this report will undoubtedly help to raise public awareness about the issue, it offers few surprises for those of us working in this area. BSAC has spent the last 50 years collaborating with our members to ensure the availability of effective antimicrobial treatment for future generations while supporting research into the basic science underlying AMR and clinical responses to tackling this emerging catastrophe. 

Through our decades of experience, we have a good understanding of how to prevent AMR, through appropriate antibiotic prescribing in humans and animals, underpinned and supported by diagnostic microbiology laboratories and infection prevention. With political will and proper funding, these interventions can be implemented right now, here in the UK, as well as elsewhere in the world.

That is why today BSAC is calling on the UK government and devolved authorities to act ambitiously and decisively. While the worlds poorest may be the first hit, they will not be the last. As COVID has illustrated, infectious diseases do not respect borders. This report indicates the scale of the challenge we are facing. AMR is currently killing more people each year than HIV/Aids, Breast Cancer and Malaria, yet does not receive either the coverage or funding afforded to tackle any of these diseases. AMR must be prioritised and requires an approach and investment equal in scale to that afforded to climate change and global security to safeguard the future of our medicines and prevent the unnecessary loss of millions more lives.

Read the report: Global burden of bacterial antimicrobial resistance in 2019: a systematic analysis


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