ASM Letter Concerning U.N. Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance

Aug. 19, 2016

Ms. Samantha J. Power
US Ambassador to the United Nations
United States Mission to the United Nations
Office of the Secretary
United States Department of State
799 United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017-3505

Dear Ambassador Power:

On September 21, the President of the United Nations General Assembly will convene a meeting at the UN Headquarters in New York, soliciting input on Antimicrobial Resistance from UN Member States, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and others alarmed by the spread of microbial pathogens increasingly resistant to therapeutics.  This high level meeting will be a rare opportunity to urge multiple nations to implement an aggressive, collaborative global action plan against this public health crisis. 

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) urges the UN Member States to support the strongest possible UN action plan against antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which will require commitment and participation from all UN Member States and their respective public-private sectors.

In 2015, the WHO World Health Assembly endorsed a global action plan against antimicrobial resistance, with five important strategic objectives:

  • improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance;
  • strengthen knowledge through surveillance and research;
  • reduce the incidence of infection;
  • optimize the use of antimicrobial medicines; and
  • ensure sustainable investment in new medicines, diagnostic tools, vaccines and other interventions.

To accomplish these objectives, all sectors of society and government must engage on a truly global scale.  Bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi resistant to commonly used therapeutics are emerging worldwide and can spread rapidly from community to community, nation to nation.  Pathogens already resistant to available treatments include those causing tuberculosis, AIDS, gonorrhea, malaria, and multiple common healthcare acquired infections.

Piecemeal solutions limited by national boundaries and shortsighted funding clearly will not resolve this problem.  The ASM urges participants at the September meeting to help unite UN Member States in facing the AMR challenge.  Multi-sector (especially public/private), international partnerships have proven effective in the past against such diseases as polio and smallpox.  Issues related to international cooperation, such as sharing of financial resources, expertise, and data, establishment of guidelines for fair and equitable intellectual property agreements, and designation of cooperative sites for clinical trials and research with adequate bioethical and bioinformatics, and financial support, need to be addressed as soon as possible to enable rapid responses to inevitable outbreaks of totally drug resistant and previously unknown microbial agents. 

The ASM has long been concerned about AMR pathogens and the strategies needed to minimize their economic, societal, and public health impacts.  A new ASM initiative, the AMR Coalition, recently identified the global AMR threat as one of its priority need areas.  Our Coalition identified urgent needs to improve laboratory capacity in developing countries, to strengthen global health infrastructures to better determine the actual burden of AMR in these countries, and to establish a global surveillance system to inform realistic, defensive action plans that also evaluate the impact of intervention measures. ASM members with significant AMR experience are available to meet as scientific advisors with you, Ambassador Power, as well as your staff and other State Department representatives.  We are eager to help strengthen both national and global campaigns against AMR infections and their devastating effects.

Sincerely,

Susan Sharp, Ph.D., President, American Society for Microbiology
Stefano Bertuzzi, Ph.D., M.P.H., CEO, American Society for Microbiology
Ronald M. Atlas, Ph.D., Chair, ASM Public and Scientific Affairs Board