Global leaders urged to address ‘fragile progress’ on tackling superbugs

Washington, D.C.

October 11, 2017


Megan Rabbitt

GLOBAL efforts to counter the threat of dangerous superbugs must move faster and with more focus, health leaders are warning.

Government ministers, scientists, industry, and civil society leaders are meeting in Berlin for an international conference to discuss how to accelerate efforts to tackle rising drug-resistant infections – which already kill 700,000 people a year worldwide.

The Call to Action event in Berlin on October 12 and 13 is organized by the Wellcome Trust, in partnership with the UK, Thai, and Ghanaian Governments, and the United Nations Foundation.

Analysis by Wellcome and the UN Foundation shows that while 151 of 195 countries are developing an action plan to tackle drug-resistant infections, only half address the threat across human and animal health and the environment. Just 1 in 5 commit to reducing antibiotic use, improving hygiene, and preserving antibiotics of last resort, and only 5 percent are adequately funded and monitored.

Dr Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust said: “Political and societal recognition of the threat superbugs pose has definitely increased. But the progress is fragile. We need to make sure we all convert that welcome high-level commitment into real action that makes a tangible difference to people lives. There is no doubt that together, we can stop the superbugs which could undermine the whole of modern medicine. But the impact is now and the time to act is now, we need to bring real urgency to this.”

If not effectively addressed, numbers dying from drug-resistant infections could rise to 10 million within a generation, with economic costs reaching US $100 trillion.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Health Officer for England said: “Superbugs will be a defining medical challenge of our age, and despite knowing about the problem for decades we have still not made enough progress to address it. Political commitments and recognition are a huge first step. But this conference is about accelerating the tangible and concrete next steps so we can stay ahead of superbugs.”

The Call to Action event will highlight the need to coordinate the range of different initiatives begun and address key critical gaps in global action, including:

  • Reducing inappropriate antibiotic use in human and animal health care, and in food and the environment.
  • Improving access to existing and new antibiotics and treatments to make sure they are available in all countries for patients who need them.
  • Building new partnerships across industry, governments, and civil society to ensure that there is proper collaboration.

Last year, the UN General Assembly recognised drug-resistant infections as one of the greatest threats facing humanity. In July, G20 leaders reiterated their countries’ commitment to sustained action.

Last month, a World Health Organization report was the latest in a series to warn that the world is running out of antibiotics, as drug development fails to keep up with the rise of drug resistance.

Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the UN Foundation, said: “Following the UN General Assembly’s focus on antimicrobial resistance last year, the UN is setting the global agenda by providing countries critical technical support on this urgent health challenge. We must all work together – private industry, philanthropy, citizens, and government –  to ensure a healthy future for generations to come.”

The actions shared at the event will support the work of the UN taskforce – the Inter-Agency Coordination Group (IACG) on AMR.

·       Wellcome and the UN Foundation have published a progress report – Sustaining global action on antimicrobial resistance – on what has been achieved in the last year since the UN General Assembly 2016 declaration.

·       Actions will be shared with the hashtags #StopSuperbugs and #ctaAMR17.

·       Key speakers at the Call to Action event will be available for interview. Journalists interested in arranging interviews should contact



Wellcome Trust: Maggie Stratton +44 (0) 207 611 8609,

Notes to Editors:

About the United Nations Foundation

The United Nations Foundation builds public-private partnerships to address the world’s most pressing problems, and broadens support for the United Nations through advocacy and public outreach. Through innovative campaigns and initiatives, the Foundation connects people, ideas, and resources to help the UN solve global problems. The Foundation was created in 1998 as a U.S. public charity by entrepreneur and philanthropist Ted Turner and now is supported by philanthropic, corporate, government, and individual donors. Learn more at:

About the UK Department of Health

The UK Department of Health (DH) helps people to live better for longer. We lead, shape and fund health and care in England, making sure people have the support, care and treatment they need, with the compassion, respect and dignity they deserve. DH is a ministerial department, supported by 27 agencies and public bodies

About Wellcome

Wellcome exists to improve health for everyone by helping great ideas to thrive. We’re a global charitable foundation, both politically and financially independent. We support scientists and researchers, take on big problems, fuel imaginations and spark debate.