The war on antibiotic resistance begins

The stage is now set for all 193 member states of the United Nations to change the world having passed a declaration on Wednesday which affirms their willingness to fight superbugs that have defied antibiotic treatment. Statistics show that over 700,000 people die yearly as a result of infection from drug-resistant superbugs. A superbug is simply a bacteria strain that has developed antiobiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance has been seen as the biggest threat to modern medicine and rightly so. The implications are just too enormous to be ignored. joined other voices to raise the consciousness of people to this danger some time ago and I am glad that the world has come together to take a bold step in combating antibiotic resistance.

So far, only four health issues have caused the general assembly of the UN to meet; HIV/Aids, non-communicable diseases and Ebola, antibiotic resistance is the fourth. This goes to show that it is not a small thing. The decision to sign such declaration was reached before the actual convergence of the general assembly to discuss the antibiotic resistance threat.

The threat of antibiotic resistance was predicted by the one who invented penicillin, the first true antibiotic, Sir Alexander Fleming. Like a prophet, he forewarned the world of this threat while accepting in 1945 his Nobel peace prize. He said, “There is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.”

antibiotic resistance
Sir Alexander Fleming receiving the Nobel Prize from King Gustaf V of Sweden. Howard Florey (far left) and Ernst Chain (second from left) shared the 1945 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Fleming. Source:


In other words, Flemming was simply saying that the ignorant man would not complete his dosage of antibiotics and by so doing enable the microbes that survived the insufficient dosage to develop immunity or resistance to the drug. Scientists have also echoed Flemming’s warning through the years especially in the recent times when pharmaceutical companies began to produce medicine industrially.

If no action is taken, experts have predicted the death of nothing less than 10 million people yearly and a loss of $100 trillion from the global economy yearly by 2050. Little wonder that this historic signing will mean that over £600 million will be used to combat the threat of antibiotic resistance.

Every signatory of the UN declaration, which includes Nigeria, will agree to:

  • Develop surveillance and regulatory systems on the use and sales of antimicrobial medicines for humans and animals
  • Encourage new and innovative ways to develop new antibiotics
  • Educate health professionals and raise public awareness on how to prevent drug-resistant infections

This declaration will require all the signatories to create a two-year plan that will protect the potency of antibiotics. Countries need to come up with strategies that will ensure the proper monitoring of how antibiotics are used in the fields of medicine and agriculture, and begin developing new and effective antibiotics.

After this period of two years, the U.N’s secretary-general will evaluate each country’s plan and check to ensure that progress is being made in each country. We trust that the Nigerian government through the Federal Ministry of Health would take the lead role in Africa by carrying out all the aspects of the declaration.

As a member of the global community, you have a vital part to play in this ongoing war. Don’t be the ignorant man or woman Sir Flemming was talking about decades ago. Complete your prescribed dosage always.