In our globalized world, climate change, economic collapse and all sorts of warfare (nuclear, biological, cyber, etc.) are viewed as the most terrible and frightening danger threatening our planet. But scientists recently pointed to an imminent threat that could wipe out the human race — the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria or, simply, "superbugs."
Today, the United Nations General Assembly will dedicate a high-level meeting to the issue of "antimicrobial resistance". It would only be the fourth time that the 193 member states discuss public health. With about 700,000 deaths a year attributed to superbugs, including 23,000 in the U.S. alone, scientists believe it's an issue as pressing as climate change. By 2050, the yearly death toll could reach 10 million worldwide.
An article published in Vox rightly warns that our consumption of antibiotics is "out of control," and not just to treat humans, but farm animals too. This bacterial evolution could make some diseases such as gonorrhea untreatable, reversing more than a century of medical progress. And it could have a bone-chilling effect on our economy. The World Bank in a report earlier this week warned that "drug-resistant infections could cause global economic damage on par with the 2008 financial crisis."
As pharmaceutical companies appear more worried about wrapping up big mergers, it's time for the UN to rise to the occasion, show its relevance, and lead the way.