Antimicrobial resistance poses the biggest threat to global health. If not tackled, estimates suggest that by 2050, drug resistant infections could kill 10 million people a year across the world.

A year on from the first ever World Antibiotics Awareness Week, great progress has been made but urgent work is needed if we are to save modern medicine.

In the pre-antibiotic era, around 40 per cent of deaths were due to infections, now it is just 7 per cent. But this work could be reversed; and already drug resistant infections like TB, HIV and malaria kill more than 700,000 people annually according to estimates. In a post-antibiotic era common infections and minor injuries could kill through infections. Chemotherapy would risk untreatable infections and simple surgeries, such as hip operations, could become life threatening through drug resistant infections.

In the pre-antibiotic era, around 40% of deaths were due to infections, now it is just 7%

How we respond to this will not only define the next era of medicine but next chapter of human history. It truly is that important.

It is a complex issue and a global problem that will not be solved overnight. But everyone can help. We must prevent infections through good hand washing and routine vaccination, including flu—which is known to increase the risk of acquiring a bacterial infection. We must reduce the inappropriate use of antibiotics—they will not work on viruses. I urge people to trust their doctor or pharmacist when they say antibiotics will not help.

Every nation needs to take responsibility with a ‘One Health’ approach. We must work locally, nationally and internationally to get the best health outcomes for people, animals and the environment. The UK will continue our work helping lead the global effort. Currently, we simply do not know the scale of the challenge we face.  Many parts of the world simply do not collect data and this is clouding the global picture. The good news is we are making great strides. Last year’s inaugural World Antibiotic Awareness Week was a big step in educating the world and through our UK Fleming Fund, we are investing £265 million in global surveillance capacity.

We must work locally, nationally and internationally to get the best health outcomes for people, animals and the environment

In September—after three years’ work—we secured a United Nations Declaration on antimicrobial resistance and 193 countries agreed to tackle drug resistant infections as a priority. Now action will be taken to improve surveillance and regulations, help develop new antibiotics and rapid diagnostics and work to improve education.

Our international achievements are also being matched on the home front. I am pleased to say total antibiotic consumption declined significantly between 2014 and 2015—by 4.3 per cent. Antibiotic prescribing has declined across all healthcare settings for the first time thanks to the work of NHS staff.

But work must continue, we must lower antibiotic use in both humans and animals at home and worldwide. Encouraging pharmaceutical companies to develop new antibiotics is another global problem that needs a global solution.

The world must come together to continue this fight and the coming years are absolutely crucial.