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Alex Azar speaks at an August 29 press conference. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

While praising "real progress" in the fight against growing antimicrobial resistance, HHS Secretary Alex Azar challenged individuals and private and public organizations around the world to renew efforts to end the "scourge of AMR" while speaking Monday at the UN General Assembly.

Why it matters: At least 23,000 Americans and 700,000 people globally die every year from AMR infections — but this number is believed to be on the low end. A recent UN report warned that AMR could kill up to 10 million people worldwide per year by 2050 if action isn't taken.

What's new: In the year since the U.S. government and its partners launched the AMR Challenge, there's been progress made, Azar said.

  • The CDC collected nearly 350 commitments from 33 countries to escalate efforts via government and private sector to lessen antibiotic resistance.
  • These commitments are from drug and health insurance companies, food animal producers and purchasers like McDonald's and Yum!, doctors and hospitals, government health officials, and other leaders from around the world.

Case in point: Azar noted the example of Premier, a large U.S. health care organization of 4,000 hospitals and 175,000 medical providers that "was able to lower the rate of a particular health-care associated infection [Clostridioides difficile] by 46% in 500 hospitals since 2015 — through coaching calls, site visits, webinars and a new website focused on AMR."

But, but, but: Azar and health officials from other countries emphasized that despite some progress, the problem continues to worsen as dozens of pathogens become resistant to treatments.

Meanwhile, a study out last week in Science developed a geospatial model using data from 901 point-prevalence surveys around the world between 2000 and 2018 examining rates of antibiotic resistance in animals and food products in E. coli, Campylobacter spp., non-typhoidal Salmonella, and Staphylococcus aureus.

  • Study co-author Ramanan Laxminarayan says they found there was a triple increase in antibiotic resistance risk in food animals from 2000–2018, particularly in low or middle-income countries like India, China and Brazil.
  • Many of these countries have just recently started monitoring and raising awareness of the problem, but farmers tend to overprescribe antibiotics to promote animal growth, causing AMR.
  • "Do we really want to enable [the] factory farming of animals at the cost of animal and human health?" Laxminarayan asks.

The bottom line: Other experts in the field tell Axios they agree there's an urgent need to focus on the AMR Challenge's "one health" approach to target humans, animals and the environment.

  • Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, tells Axios there are two main arms to combating AMR: preventing AMR from developing via good stewardship of current antibiotics and other methods, and "developing a robust pipeline of new antibiotics."
  • Greg Frank, director of the advocacy coalition Working to Fight AMR, agrees, adding that it's important for President Trump and Congress to "lead this fight — by incentivizing the development of new, lifesaving antibiotics" before more drug companies go out of business.
  • Laxminarayan, who also sits on the U.S. Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria, says "if you're going to solve this, it has to be [through the] one health issue — for humans and animals together."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

5 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.