Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is on the rise according to a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), and inequality is a major contributor to the problem. 

According to the WEF, antimicrobial resistance increases financial pressure on individuals and health systems often leading to hospitalizations, longer stays, more expensive diagnosis and treatment, and there is a reduced ability to safely provide treatments such as chemotherapy and surgical care.

New data shows that AMR was estimated to be directly responsible for 1.27 million deaths in 2019—equivalent to approximately 3,500 people each day. Experts at the WEF believe this number will climb to 10 million per year by 2050 if there is no intervention.

People living in urban and overcrowded environments were at the highest risk of developing AMR. Areas with high levels of conflict are also at greater risk due to lack of adequate care and displacement, according to the data.

The WEF noted that climate change is also increasing the risk of AMR due to rising ambient temperatures that increase the proliferation of bacteria. Extreme weather can also prevent access to and disrupt health care services. 

The organization warns against the increased use of antimicrobials on animals, which can trigger drug-resistant pathogens that can be passed between animals and humans in occupational settings and through food contamination.

Pollution continues to push the risk of AMR higher from pharmaceutical and health care waste. Heavy metals and agricultural processes can also increase pollution levels, creating resistance to drugs. 

The WEF is calling on policymakers to focus on the relationship between the social and economic factors resulting in antimicrobial-resistant infections. Policies that reflect socio-economic drivers and impacts of antimicrobial resistance are central to coordinating action across different sectors, according to the WEF.

The organization noted that the best evidence-informed policies will ensure that biomedical and value research from different disciplines will tackle the socio-economic drivers and impacts of antimicrobial resistance. This includes investment in programs that prevent and control infections in community and health care settings and biosecurity measures in animal health settings.