Summary: High-level dialogue on the silent pandemic of antibiotic resistance

A high-level dialogue on antimicrobial resistance took place on 15 September at the Campus Biotech in the heart of Geneva, reflecting the canton and Switzerland’s commitment to remaining at the forefront of biotechnology and life sciences research. The dialogue, organized by the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP), the Diplomatic Club of Geneva, the State of Geneva and the Swiss Confederation, brought together various Swiss and international actors.

The event ‘Are we ready for the silent pandemic of antibiotic resistance?’ aimed to reflect on lessons learned from COVID-19 in order to aid the international community in better confronting emerging health threats, including antimicrobial resistance. The event was attended by more than 150 people in person and online.

Dr Manica Balasegaram, Executive Director of GARDP, opened the dialogue by welcoming participants and giving an overview of drug resistance, including the overuse and misuse of antibiotics combined with a lack of investment in research and development. “Imagine if we were no longer able to save lives – from surgery, chemotherapy, pneumonia or urinary tract infections – because the antibiotics available no longer work,” he said, calling for increased collective action to address drug resistant infections.



In turn, Ms. Andréa Arz de Falco, Vice-Director of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, welcomed the event, paticularly given the challenging context of the last 18 months. She noted COVID-19 is not the only danger facing Switzerland and the global community. “A second, silent pandemic is spreading before our eyes, in the shadow of COVID-19: more and more bacteria are resistant to antibiotics,” she said. She then outlined the Swiss government’s efforts since the 2015 launch of the comprehensive national strategy to combat antibiotic resistance (StAR). This includes the global surveillance of resistant pathogens initiated by the Swiss Center for Antibiotic Resistance Control (ANRESIS), new guidelines for antibiotic administration for human and animal health, as well as support for research and development.

Acknowledging GARDP as an essential partner in supporting these goals, Ms. Arz de Falco added that Switzerland, as the host country, recognizes and welcomes the significant role GARDP plays at the global level.

On behalf of the State of Geneva, Ms. Nathalie Fontanet, State Councillor in charge of International Affairs, welcomed the hosting of this high-level dialogue on such an important topic. “As the world capital of public health,” she said, Geneva must be at the forefront of the search for solutions in this field. In her view, it is essential to raise awareness among all actors – political, economic, public or private – of the importance of developing new treatments in the fight against antibiotic resistance, especially in the current context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The roundtable that followed these keynote speeches explored different aspects of what more needs to be done at a local and international level to address antibiotic resistance. Panelists included:

  • Manica Balasegaram, Executive Director, GARDP
  • Melchior de Muralt, Co-Founder, BlueOrchard
  • Bertrand Levrat, Director-General, Geneva University Hospitals
  • Enrichetta Placella, Deputy Head of Global Program Health, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation