A historic declaration to combat antimicrobial resistance has been signed by 193 countries at a United Nations General Assembly.

Each signatory has agreed that drug resistant infections must be tackled as a priority, in light of projections that, by 2050, 10 million people a year will be dying as a result at a cost to the global economy of some $100 trillion, if the problem isn’t tackled now.

As such, the nations have committed to: developing surveillance and regulatory systems on the use and sales of antimicrobial medicines for humans and animals; encouraging new ways to develop novel antibiotics and improving rapid diagnostics; and raising awareness among health professionals and the public on how to prevent drug resistant infections.

“This Declaration is the culmination of six years of hard work and I am extremely proud that every UN member state is now engaged in the enormous task of tackling the greatest future threat to our civilisation,” said chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies.

“We need governments, the pharmaceutical industry, health professionals and the agricultural sector to follow through on their commitments to save modern medicine.”

At the meeting, governments from around the world agreed to coordinate their collective AMR funding – equating to around £600 million – for maximum impact, and the UK also committed to further reducing inappropriate prescriptions and the incidence of high risk bacterial infections in hospitals by 50 percent, as well as cutting the level of antibiotic use in the agricultural sector to 50mg/kg by 2020.

Also at the assembly, thirteen pharmaceutical companies signed up to an industry ‘roadmap’ to tackle resistant infections, with a number of commitments including steps to ensure affordable access to high quality antibiotics in low and middle income countries, as well as reducing the environmental impact from production of antibiotics, ensuring appropriate use, and exploring new opportunities for open collaborations between industry and the public sector.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry welcomed the move. “The global pharmaceutical industry is on the crest of this wave, and today we have underlined our role as key player in the fight against drug resistance and in preventing the rise of the superbug,” said Dr Virginia Acha, executive director, Research, Medical, Innovation.

“By detailing specific actions companies will take in a proactive, ambitious and comprehensive roadmap, our industry is showing that it is committed to be held to account, and our action should be commended by all.”

Earlier this month, G20 leaders committed to exploring how best to stimulate research and the development of new antimicrobial products, as it is widely recognised that the current commercial model does not encourage activity in this area.