A newly formed international organization — more than 700 members in 55 countries — has launched an urgent appeal to governments and healthcare, begging for attention to antibiotic resistance as a grave global threat, and asking that antibiotics be declared a cultural heritage deserving legal protection.
The group grew out of meetings by French and other European researchers, and all its materials are bilingual, to the point that it is going by two names and acronyms: the World Alliance Against Antibiotic Resistance (WAAAR) and L’alliance contre le développement des bactéries multi-résistantes (AC2BMR).
The group has been in formation a while but went public Monday, publishing its appeal and asking for 10 specific actions to keep antibiotic resistance from surging beyond the point at which it can be controlled.
From the group’s Declaration:
The Alliance, in particular through this declaration, is dedicated to actively promoting antibiotic preservation and to raising awareness among antibiotic prescribers, politicians and policy-makers, patient safety and advocacy groups, the pharmaceutical industry, international health organizations, and the general population. Individual actions, no matter how well intended, are doomed to failure unless there is an international dialogue, a common sense of purpose, and broad consensus on how best to proceed.
We must change how antibiotics are used and adopt proactive strategies, similar to those used to save endangered species. Preservation of the efficacy of antibiotics and to stabilization of antibiotic-susceptible bacterial ecosystems should be global goals.
Here’s a brief list of the 10 actions they ask for. It’s worth visiting their site to see how each action is broken down into detailed practical steps:
- Promote awareness of the threat of resistance.
- Organize a national plan in each country to contain antibiotic resistance, overseen by the Ministry of Health or an equivalent.
- Guarantee access to quality antibiotics ( to reduce the market for resistance-promoting counterfeits).
- Create national surveillance programs that track antibiotic use as well as resistant organisms.
- Urge the use of diagnostic tests, to prevent empirical prescribing that might guess wrong and promote resistance, and press for development of rapid diagnostics.
- Press for what’s called “antibiotic stewardship” that uses the drugs prudently, especially in agriculture; eliminate over-the-counter sales of farm drugs and ban growth promoters.
- Create educational programs on resistance, not just for medical personnel, but for kids in schools.
- Improve strategies for containing infections from resistant organisms, emphasizing infection control in hospitals and vaccines in livestock.
- Lure pharmaceutical manufacturers back into the marketplace in order to develop new antibiotics.
- Urge UNESCO to declare antibiotics an “intangible cultural heritage” deserving of global protection.
The declaration is backed not just by its 700+ signatories but by more than 140 professional groups and scientific societies.
Many of the things the group asks for have been floated individually over the past decade or so — but seeing so many front-line researchers and famous medical names attached to the call to action is striking.