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Policy & Global Development, Antimicrobial Resistance

Antimicrobial Resistance: The Silent Pandemic?

Series | Policy Briefs #59


[This document is one of a series of discussion notes addressing fundamental questions about global health. Its purpose is to transfer scientific knowledge into the public conversation and decision-making process. The papers are based on the best information available and may be updated as new information comes to light.]


1.27 million deaths in 2019 alone were directly attributable to drug-resistant infections. Labelled by some as a silent pandemic, antimicrobial resistance has increased at an alarming rate in recent decades. Without new policies and strict controls, this figure could rise to 10 million annual deaths by 2050. That would be more deaths than those caused by cancer.

This document is the first in a series of policy briefs about antimicrobial resistance. Written by Jordi Vila, Clara Marín, Elizabet Diago, Claudia García-Vaz, Laura Agúndez, Sara Soto, Clara Ballesté-Delpierre, Marina Tarrús and Elisabet Guiral, it introduces and explains the basic concepts of resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance is already imposing massive financial strain on global health care systems. The annual cost of treating multidrug-resistant bacterial infections is about €1.1 billion in Europe and $20 billion in the United States.