We must harness the power of social and behavioural science against the growing pandemic of antimicrobial resistance

Miroslav Sirota, Katrine bach Habersaat, Cornelia Betsch, Daniela lejla Bonga, Aleksandra Borek, Anica Buckel, Robb Butler, Lucie Byrne-Davis, Mark Caudell, Esmita Charani, Mattis Geiger, Marina Gross, Jo Hart, Olga Kostopoulou, Eva m. Krockow, Tiina Likki, Danilo Lo fo wong, Ana p. Santana, Elisabeth d. c. Sievert, Andriana TheodoropoulouAlistair Thorpe, Marta Wanat, Robert Böhm

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Social and behavioural science offers a valuable toolkit for combating pandemics, but has not been broadly applied to tackle the rising pandemic of antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi and viruses) adapt to survive exposure to medicines that normally kill them or inhibit their growth, which in turn makes these medicines less effective over time. Left unmitigated, antimicrobial resistance will reverse previous gains in modern medicine and increase global mortality from currently treatable diseases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antimicrobial resistance is one of the most important threats to global health, food security and development today1. In 2019, antimicrobial resistance is estimated to have contributed to the deaths of approximately 4.95 million people: 1.27 million deaths were directly attributed to it2. By comparison, the WHO estimated that — on the basis of excess deaths statistics — COVID-19 was associated with 3 million deaths in 2020 (ref. 3). If no immediate measures are taken to reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance, by 2050 it could contribute to up to 10 million deaths annually4. The burden is not distributed equally, as it disproportionally affects people from low- and middle-income countries2.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-13
Number of pages3
JournalNature Human Behaviour
Issue number1
Early online date20 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2024


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