Communicable diseases remain a major global public health threat worldwide. Malaria and HIV/AIDS are mass killers, with the populations in poor countries being the hardest hit. Rapidly developing microbial resistance has led to a new dimension of threat posed by infectious disease. Although tuberculostatic medicines exist and tuberculosis and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis are treatable, millions of people die of TB each year. With the outbreak of SARS in 2002, it became clear that intensive intercontinental travel of humans allows dangerous infections to travel more quickly. While in the past, the development of a global pandemic took months or even years, the world is now faced with the possibility of pandemics spreading across the globe within a few days. Even climate change is impacting the incidence of communicable diseases. With this stark reality in mind, preventive and containment measures for communicable diseases must be a priority.
In 1996 the WMA issued the first version of its policy on Resistance to Antimicrobial Drugs. This policy warned that if appropriate measures were not taken, microbial resistance would become a major problem for medicine. This call for action was not heeded. With a few exceptions, no proper action was taken and the worst predictions relating to resistance became a reality. Antimicrobial drug resistance is now one of the most common reasons for fatal outcomes caused by infections, a situation which could have been prevented.