Early Lessons From the COVID-19 Can Help Tackle Silent Pandemic of Drug-Resistant Infections, Says New GARDP Report

18 Nov 2020
  • Just like COVID-19, antibiotic resistance is a global health security crisis that moves silently within populations and knows no borders.
  • Timely access to appropriate antibiotics will be an important component of pandemic preparedness to tackle future viral pandemics.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – As the world reels from the impact of COVID-19, a new GARDP report explores how the early lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic can be applied to tackling the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.

According to the report, the initial lessons of the COVID-19 pandemic present an opportunity to improve the response to pandemics, including the silent pandemic of drug-resistant infections, which kill an estimated 700,000 people each year, a number projected to increase exponentially as drug resistance grows.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the impact of pandemics. The novel coronavirus has claimed more than a million lives, trillions of dollars have been lost, expenditures cut and international efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals put in jeopardy.

“The unchecked growth of drug-resistant infections is a silent pandemic with long-term implications for global health security,” said Manica Balasegaram, GARDP’s Executive Director. “The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the need to strengthen health infrastructure, and ensure worldwide, equitable access to treatments, diagnostics and vaccines.”

Access to appropriate antibiotics will be critical in preventing future pandemics. The report highlights the critical importance of universal, equitable and affordable access to antimicrobials and diagnostics as a cornerstone of pandemic response. It recommends governments make large and long-term investments in medical countermeasures, including vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments, to prevent future pandemics.

Now more than ever, governments have the opportunity to make robust and comprehensive investments into the way they prepare and respond to pandemics. This has the potential to translate into long-term, interlinked health and economic benefits for people and countries, according to the report.

COVID-19 has demonstrated pandemic preparedness requires a global coordinated effort, and no country can do it alone. “Particularly critical to tackling drug-resistant infections is the One Health concept, recognizing the importance of connecting the health of people to both the health of animals and our shared environment,” said Dr Balasegaram.

The GARDP report recommends five concrete measures governments can take to ramp up the response to drug resistance, focusing on the development and access to medical countermeasures.

  1. Recognise and urgently address the silent pandemic of drug-resistant infections.
  2. Invest in the development of medical countermeasures as a critical element of pandemic preparedness.
  3. Ensure that access to diagnostics, treatments and vaccines for all is a cornerstone of pandemic preparedness and response.
  4. Expand global cooperation across geographies and sectors and within a One Health framework.
  5. Ensure low- and middle-income countries are equal partners in a comprehensive global response. Solutions that have been pioneered by such countries should be recognised and integrated into pandemic preparedness and response.

The report was released during World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, which kicks off today under the theme “United to preserve antimicrobials”. The week aims to increase awareness of global antimicrobial resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections.


The Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) is a Swiss not-for-profit organization developing new treatments for drug-resistant infections that pose the greatest threat to health. GARDP was created by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) in 2016 to ensure that everyone who needs antibiotics receives effective and affordable treatment. We aim to develop five new treatments by 2025 to fight drug-resistant infections. GARDP is funded by the governments of Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland, United Kingdom, as well as Médecins Sans Frontières and private foundations. GARDP is registered under the legal name GARDP Foundation. www.gardp.org

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