photo: Sebastian Kaulitzki/Alamy Stock Photo
Drug resistance of bacteria is on the rise and already kills hundreds of thousands every year. The use of antibiotics for both humans and in animal production is projected to increase at an alarming rate in the decades to come. To preserve this dwindling global resource, there is a need to urgently move towards more sustainable practices and fundamentally change the way how we relate to infectious diseases and microbes in general.
Researchers from Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere (GEDB) program, The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, and Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) have joined forces with members of the ReAct network to discuss global challenges related to antibiotic resistance and identify potential areas of collaboration.
ReAct- Action on Antibiotic Resistance- is an independent and global multidisciplinary network active as a catalyst for advocacy and engagement on antibiotic.
The new collaboration aims to identify innovative strategies for tackling antibiotic resistance as part of sustainable development. One area of collaboration will identify development pathways that explicitly see microbes as part of the biosphere that human civilization depends on. Microbes are often forgotten when we talk about the biosphere, emphasizing this point will help promote more sustainable strategies for tackling antibiotic resistance and infectious diseases that does not solely rely on drug innovation. This will help social-ecological resilience in our relationship with microbes.
“We all need to become stewards of the microbes in our body and in the environment”, says Peter Søgaard Jørgensen, a researcher at the GEDB program and junior research leader at Stockholm Resilience Centre. Søgaard Jørgensen also leads a two-year synthesis project on social-ecological governance of resistance evolution at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) in Maryland, USA.
”Without strong political leadership, funding and behavioural change at all levels of society , antibiotic resistance will have devastating effects on all health systems and become a serious threat to sustainable development” says Otto Cars, professor of Infectious Diseases at Uppsala University and founder of ReAct.
Global animal food production systems provide another area for collaboration on antibiotics, especially related to seafood production. “We have already initiated studies on antimicrobials in aquaculture production and are trying to further expand this research through new projects in Asia where most of the production originates from”, says Max Troell, Associated Professor at The Beijer Institute of ecological economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Troell leads the program on Sustainable Seafood and is also theme leader of Global food systems and multifunctional landscapes at SRC.
Anna Zorzet, Head of ReAct Europe at Uppsala University concludes: “One of the great challenges with antibiotic resistance is its cross-sectoral nature which negatively affect both human health, animal health and the environment. Effective action to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR) requires coherence in policy responses across these sectors in the diverse settings of developed and developing countries. Tackling AMR through a lens of resilience is a promising way to achieve that and we are excited about this collaboration towards this end.”