Intended for healthcare professionals


What to do about antimicrobial resistance

BMJ 2016; 353 doi: (Published 06 June 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;353:i3087
  1. David L Heymann, head and senior fellow
  1. Centre on Global Health Security, Chatham House, London, UK
  1. David.Heymann{at}

Successful eradication of smallpox and the treaty to reduce smoking may suggest the way

Before global activities to eradicate smallpox were intensified in 1967 an estimated two million people were dying each year of the infection, with blindness affecting up to 30% of survivors. A thermostable vaccine made eradication possible and stopped sickness and death from smallpox. By eradicating smallpox, the vaccine has also avoided the need for antibiotics to treat associated secondary bacterial infections and removed the potential of resistance developing to any antiviral drugs that might have been developed. Promoting and developing vaccines is therefore rightly among the 10 main recommendations for tackling drug resistant infections that are outlined in the final report of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance chaired by Jim O'Neill.1

New or more effective vaccines could also prevent antimicrobial resistance in infections such as HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria, which are among today’s high mortality infections that depend on antimicrobial drugs to prevent or cure sickness. The report’s 10 recommendations follow the two World Health Organization global work plans and …

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