With all the advances in medical science and technology, we should be well placed to fight infection. But the reality is, we are no longer fighting the same diseases we had 20 years ago. New diseases are emerging and old ones re-emerging, infection is no longer confined by geographical borders and we’ve misused antibiotics to the point at which bacteria are immune to them. We are entering a new era and an increased global effort is needed to win the fight.

One of the most urgent areas we need to address is drug-resistant bacteria. Recently, The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, chaired by Jim O'Neill, painted a bleak picture, claiming that drug-resistant infections could kill an extra 10 million people across the world every year by 2050 if they are not tackled. Decades of misuse and over-use and a lack of research into new drugs have weakened antibiotics as an effective weapon.

As a result, not only do we need new drugs to be developed, we need to completely rethink our approach to how we use them. This needs to go hand in hand with improved diagnostics. We still don’t have the equipment widely available to accurately make point-of-care diagnosis, which means millions of infections are completely missed or misdiagnosed and treated ineffectively.

Infection is no longer confined by geographical borders...

Of course, there are many viral infectious diseases that simply cannot be treated with antibiotics at all. As we saw with the ebola epidemic, outbreaks of a viral infection can be truly devastating. What can be done is prevention and we need to step up our research into improving vaccinations, and increase public health awareness. And this doesn’t just mean in the developing world anymore. As people travel more freely, so does infection, so the responsibility is a global one.

The challenge ahead is not easy, but it’s not impossible. We’ve seen great collaboration and investment from governments, international organisations, NGOs, pharmaceutical companies, academia and grass roots communities to date. We now need to strengthen and extend partnerships as we enter this new season.

The media continues to play a vital role in keeping these issues at the forefront of public consciousness. The fact is, infectious disease is a global issue. It affects every one of us and we can all take steps to protect ourselves and hold those in authority accountable.

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