Summary: G7 Leadership in Accelerating the Response to Antimicrobial Resistance in the Pandemic Era

8 Dec 2021

On 7 December, GARDP hosted a high-level panel discussion at the UNITE Annual Parliamentarian Summit, with the event focused on G7 leadership in accelerating the response to antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The panel was organized by GARDP as part of ongoing work to position AMR as a priority for the G7. Panel members explored lessons learned in tackling COVID-19 and how these can be applied to efforts to address the silent pandemic of drug resistance.

Moderated by former BBC journalist Claire Doole, the panel featured Prof Laura Piddock, GARDP Scientific Director;  Dr Lisa Cameron, Member of Parliament of the UK and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Health; Dr Andrew Ullmann, Member of the German Parliament; Dr Hajime Inoue, Assistant Minister for Global Health and Welfare, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan; and Dr Renu Swarup, Former Secretary to the Government of India, Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology.

Prof Piddock opened the session by painting a picture of the urgency of addressing antimicrobial resistance, noting antibiotics underpin all areas of medicine and that without them many of us would not have survived to adult. “Imagine if COVID had initially targeted the young versus the elderly. How different would the world’s response have been? Would we have allowed a generation to be wiped out? Because that’s what we’re allowing with drug-resistant infections.” Prof Piddock explained COVID-19 has also shown a way forward for tackling the silent pandemic of drug-resistant infections, including the need to invest early, expand global cooperation, ensure low- and middle-income countries are equal partners in a comprehensive response and ensure equitable and affordable access to treatments. She further welcomed G7 calls for a greater focus on addressing the pandemic of drug-resistant infections.

Dr Cameron outlined the magnitude of AMR, explaining that by 2050 drug-resistant infections could kill 10 million people every year if not addressed. “That’s more than cancer and diabetes combined. We definitely cannot underestimate the scale of this matter and how serious it is.” She explained that the UK government was asked to make AMR a top five policy priority with a dedicated budget to enable work in the area. Dr Cameron highlighted that greater investment in scientific research is absolutely crucial, alongside the need to ensure antibiotics are protected through responsible use, including through public education campaigns.

Dr Ullmann noted that as part of Germany’s governing coalition contract, it had been made clear there was a need for better pandemic preparedness, including the pandemic of multidrug resistance. He also outlined that COVID-19 had driven home the importance of a One Health approach to dealing with pandemics. Dr Ullmann explained he is optimistic that as Germany takes the G7 Presidency in 2022, they will move the issue of AMR forward to position it as a global priority. “Antimicrobial resistance will never vanish from this world. It’s going to be a competition between our intelligence and the microbes. But if we work together, as we’ve seen with the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be lessons learned to further combat AMR.”

In his comments, Dr Inoue explained how it is important to connect AMR with each and every global agenda. “One of the most important lessons from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is how easily it crosses national borders. This is especially true for AMR and reminds us of the importance of a coordinated response at the global level.” Dr Inoue went on to outline the challenge of AMR in the Asia-Pacific region and explained why it is essential that countries update their national action plans on AMR to support globally harmonized efforts.

Dr Swarup noted that COVID-19 has shone the spotlight on the importance of investing in science and technology solutions to address public health priorities, including the silent pandemic of drug-resistant infections. She outlined the actions that need to be taken to tackle AMR, including ensuring national action plans are being appropriately implemented, with well worked out monitoring in place. Dr Swarup explained that investment in antibiotic R&D is critical, and beyond that there is a need to focus attention on appropriate surveillance mechanisms for antibiotic resistance, as well as an emphasis on better diagnostics and treatment protocols. “For example, what we’ve done with COVID is exceptional, and it’s what’s made it possible in a country as large as India to ensure that whatever health protocol and action we’re taking is reaching the last mile.” She highlighted that the global commitment to tackling the COVID-19 pandemic must now be translated to globally coordinated efforts to tackle AMR.

Presentations from the panelists were followed by questions and answers from audience members, including on the challenges and opportunities of developing a global AMR infrastructure, the priorities for addressing AMR, the role parliamentarians can play in the development of- and access to- new antibiotics, and what can be done to raise awareness among healthcare professionals and the public of the issue. Throughout the discussion and Q&A, panel members called for enhanced and coordinated collaboration and investment to control and prevent AMR.