York researchers’ publication addresses global preparedness and response to next pandemic

(Courtesy of CDC, Unsplash)

Researchers at York are calling for serious investigation and protection from the threat of future pandemics through worldwide antimicrobial resistance (AMR)​. 

Alongside this call for international action, the World Health Assembly has also agreed to begin the process of drafting and instituting global pandemic control and response conventions that would be legally binding for nations to follow.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), AMR is the developed resistance and mutation of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites to drugs, antibiotics, and other medicines over time. As we have witnessed the COVID-19 virus evolve in real time, researchers and physicians alike have growing concerns over international preparedness and response for the next pandemic, which researchers assert is a certainty — not a possibility. 

As a step towards this goal, researchers from across the world have recently published a study entitled “Governing Global Antimicrobial Resistance: 6 Key Lessons From the Paris Climate Agreement” in the American Journal of Public Health, addressing worldwide AMR governance.  Headed by York researchers, the paper suggests using the 2015 Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as an example for addressing and applying worldwide AMR techniques.

“The latest estimates suggest that 1.27 million people die every year due to AMR, making it one of the most deadly challenges we currently face. Our paper identifies essential components of a global strategy to address this threat, which are extremely relevant to discussion on improving global governance currently taking place at the UN and WHO,” says Isaac Weldon, PhD candidate in political science at York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, the study’s lead author and representative for the other York affiliated researchers.

The publication highlights six lessons learned from the Paris Agreement in establishing focused global action. First and foremost on the list is setting an unambiguous goal for each nation to strive towards. Weldon and his team composed of international researchers are currently focused towards establishing such a goal.  

“For me, the most important thing to keep in mind is that any goal needs to be equitable and equitably determined. Any attempt to govern global health requires confronting questions like who is included in our conception of ‘the global’, as well as what is our conception of ‘a universally desired global future?’ not just matters of justice, but getting these questions right will actually help make the goal a more effective communication tool,” says Weldon.

Aside from AMR, researchers are also broadening their focus to other types of future pandemics, such as those transferred from humans to animals, as COVID-19 originally began, which are called zoonotic diseases. Weldon highlights the need to address resistance from all types of future pandemic threats.

“The question about the next pandemic is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. COVID-19 is a zoonotic disease, while AMR is another pathway through which pandemic disease threats can emerge. The next pandemic may be zoonotic, or it may be due to AMR. The difference is that the next zoonotic pandemic is a risk that we need to try and prevent and prepare for — it is a potential event that will happen in the future.” 

About the Author

By Jeanette Williams

Health Editor

health@excal.on.ca

Jeanette is in her third year double majoring in Film and English at York University with a keen interest in science and technology. She loves to write and aspires to be a showrunner or major writer for a TV series or documentary filmmaker. When Jeanette isn’t writing or studying, she is watching documentaries on anything related to politics, the health industry, or true crime.

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