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WHO Outlines 40 Research Priorities to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance Risks

Yusuf Balogun
Yusuf Balogun
Yusuf is a law graduate and freelance journalist with a keen interest in tech reporting.

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In recent years, antimicrobial resistance (AMR), has continued to be one of the greatest risks to human health on the planet and was responsible for about 5 million deaths worldwide in 2019. In addition, it poses a danger to the world economy by affecting productivity, global trade, and health care. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), AMR might cost the global economy $100 trillion by 2050 if nothing is done.

As part of its continuous effort to address this most pressing human health challenge – AMR, the World Health Organization has published its first global research agenda for the world’s scientists to combat antimicrobial resistance. The organization outlined 40 research topics on drug-resistant bacteria, fungi, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis that must be answered by 2030, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals.

The research agenda was developed based on a review of over 3000 relevant documents published over the past decade. The review identified 2000 unanswered questions or knowledge gaps, which were further consolidated and prioritized by a large group of AMR experts to conclude with the 40 most pivotal research topics. A summary report containing the research priorities can be found on its official website here.

Dr Hanan Balkhy, WHO Assistant Director-General for AMR, said high-quality research is an essential component of the solution to the critical public health and the economic problem posed by antibiotic resistance.

“Antimicrobial resistance is an urgent public health and economic challenge, and good quality research is a vital part of the response. To help preserve antimicrobials and save lives and livelihoods, this research agenda is a crucial tool for researchers and funders to prioritize research questions and promptly and efficiently generate evidence that informs policy,” said Dr Hanan Balkhy.”

The WHO Global Research Agenda for AMR in human health will catalyze innovation and implementation research, spanning the epidemiology, burden and drivers of AMR, context-specific and cost-effective strategies to prevent infections and the emergence of resistance.

Additionally, it will also include developing new diagnostic procedures and better treatment protocols, finding efficient ways to gather data and use it to inform policy, and figuring out how to use existing therapies more successfully in environments with constrained resources. Result: Policies and measures to boost the response to antimicrobial resistance, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, will be informed by the evidence gathered.

On the other hand, Dr Silvia Bertagnolio, Unit Head of the WHO AMR Division, added: “This first research agenda from WHO will provide the world’s AMR researchers and funders with the most important topics to focus on and give the world its best chance to combat AMR.”


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