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World leaders to take part in crisis simulation of AMR pandemic

G20 leaders will come together to simulate a fictional drug-resistant E. Coli pandemic, as part of an international effort to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The governments of the UK and Argentina will lead on the exercise to test G20 world leaders on how they would tackle the spread of an infection that is resistant to antibiotics.

The crisis simulation will put ministers in a fictional scenario where an E. Coli outbreak that is resistant to antibiotics spreads across borders, putting public health, livestock, trade and travel at risk. The exercise takes place today (Thursday 4 October) at the G20 Health Ministerial Meeting in Mar del Plata Argentina.

The simulation will test leaders’ and countries’ ability to act quickly if antibiotic resistant bugs cross borders and lead to a pandemic affecting global public health, placing pressure on health systems and the economies of the fictional countries involved. It will be led by Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Dame Sally Davies and Argentine journalist Dr Nelson Castro.

The exercise will raise awareness and understanding of the key challenges of AMR, and encourage G20 ministers to ensure countries are doing everything they can in the global fight against superbugs.

The aim is to help governments across the world confront difficult issues around reducing antibiotic resistant bugs, including how to reduce the overuse of antimicrobial drugs, while making sure patients who need them have access to them.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a natural phenomenon where microbes evolve to be able to resist the actions of drugs, making them ineffective.

The process is being accelerated by humans through the inappropriate use and misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals. The biggest threat posed by the spread of AMR is losing modern medicine and an increase in deaths worldwide. It is therefore vital governments work together to minimise the impact of AMR around the world.

A 2016 independent antimicrobial resistance review led by Lord O’Neillpredicted that without urgent international action, AMR will cause the deaths of at least 10 million people a year by 2050.

Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Dame Sally Davies said:

Antimicrobial resistance is an escalating global threat that demands action from all countries – world leaders must co-ordinate efforts to address this ‘one health’ challenge.

I am delighted to be co-facilitating this exercise with Dr Nelson Castro today, which will strengthen understanding of the risk of drug-resistant infections and allow world leaders to consider their response to this threat.

Steve Brine, Public Health Minister said:

The UK is at the forefront of global action on AMR and while some progress has been made both at home and internationally, we cannot afford to lose ground. Superbugs do not recognise borders and our response must not be constrained by them either.

Tackling antibiotic resistance is a priority – we are committed to working with our neighbours overseas, including those at the G20 today, to coordinate a united response. We strongly support the Argentineans in bringing this crucial issue to the table under their G20 presidency, along with important discussions on malnutrition, strengthening health systems and crisis response.

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