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Research Report

Antimicrobial Resistance as an Emerging Threat to National Security

Copyright Date: Dec. 1, 2014
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 24
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-8)

    In the preantibiotic era, an infection as simple as a sore throat could be a death sentence. A cut on the arm, if infected, could lead to a life-threatening fever or even organ failure. Diseases that are now barely thought of in the United States and Europe, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and dysentery, ran rampant in the early twentieth century; communicable diseases such as these caused one-third of all deaths in the United States in 1900.¹ Over the past seventy years, the global burden of disease has shifted from communicable diseases to noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease and cancer,...

  2. (pp. 9-9)

    There are real economic costs associated with the increase of AMR. A reduction in effectiveness of existing antibiotics by just 1 percent could impose costs of up to $3 trillion in lost human health.58 AMR infections are harder to fight off, leading to more severe illnesses, longer hospital stays, and higher mortality rates. According to the CDC, at least two million Americans acquire serious infections due to at least one strain of resistant bacteria annually, and at least 23,000 people die of these infections.59 In the European Union, drug resistant bacteria are responsible for at least 25,000 deaths a year.60...

  3. (pp. 10-11)

    AMR, like global warming, presents the world with a threat that can only be solved at the global level. Just as a molecule of carbon dioxide emitted anywhere contributes to the threat to the entire planet, resistance that appears in one part of the world can spread to undermine the health of the global community. The international community needs to address the long-term challenge of a possible postantibiotic world and to prepare to best manage and mitigate an AMR-induced crisis that could occur at any time. Antimicrobial drugs are a public good, akin to fisheries or forests, and need to...

  4. (pp. 12-13)

    To date, piecemeal steps have been taken to address the issue of AMR, with certain countries and organizations fighting against resistance while others benefit from the short-term advantages of using these drugs without considering the long-term consequences. In addition to the many worst-case scenarios outlined throughout this report—higher rates of mortality, and inability to perform life-saving operations, among others—there is the possibility of broader social problems. Food security may be threatened because of an inability to fight off infections in livestock and in agriculture. Overall, productivity will decrease as a result of more frequent and severe illnesses due...