World leaders have signaled an unprecedented level of attention to curb the spread of infections that are resistant to antimicrobial medicines. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) happens when bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi develop resistance against medicines that were previously able to cure them.

For the first time, Heads of State have committed to taking a broad, coordinated approach to address the root causes of AMR across multiple sectors, especially human health, animal health and agriculture. This is only the fourth time a health issue has been taken up by the United Nations General Assembly (the others were HIV, non-communicable diseases and Ebola).

Countries reaffirmed their commitment to develop national action plans on AMR. Such plans are needed to understand the full scale of the problem and stop the misuse of antimicrobial medicines in human health, animal health and agriculture. Leaders recognized the need for stronger systems to monitor drug-resistant infections and the volume of antimicrobials used in humans, animals and crops, as well as increased international cooperation and funding.

They pledged to strengthen regulation of antimicrobials, improve knowledge and awareness and promote best practices as well as to foster innovative approaches using alternatives to antimicrobials and new technologies for diagnosis and vaccines.

Common and life-threatening infections like pneumonia, and post-operative infections, as well as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria are increasingly becoming untreatable because of AMR. Left unchecked, AMR is predicted to have significant social, health security and economic repercussions that will seriously undermine the development of countries.

Leaders at the UN meeting called on WHO, FAO and OIE, in collaboration with development banks such the World Bank and other relevant stakeholders, to coordinate their planning and actions and to report back to the UN General Assembly in September 2018.

Countries called for better use of existing, cost-effective tools for preventing infections in humans and animals. These include immunization, safe water and sanitation and good hygiene in hospitals. Putting in place systems to ensure more appropriate use of existing and new antibiotics is also essential.

In addition, they highlighted market failures, and called for new incentives for investment in research and development of new, effective and affordable medicines, rapid diagnostic tests and other important therapies to replace those that are losing their power. They stressed that affordability and access to existing and new antibiotics, vaccines and other medical tools should be a global priority and should take into account the needs of all countries.