Antimicrobial resistance could possibly become next public health crisis: Experts

According to a white paper released by the health experts, the threat posed by the indiscriminate use of antibiotic medications can possibly worsen the health emergencies and impede the efforts aimed at eradicating diseases like tuberculosis. More details here.

Gaon Connection
| Updated: July 29th, 2021

The white paper explains that the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when disease-causing microbes like, fungi, bacteria, and viruses develop resistance against the drugs that once effectively neutralised them. Photo: Flickr

As the world continues to reel under the devastating impacts of the COVID19 pandemic, health experts warn that the drug-resistance developed by the microorganisms that cause diseases in human beings is worrisome and if the situation persists then the antimicrobial resistance would soon raise its head as the next public health crisis.

The concerns about the antimicrobial resistance were raised in a white paper released today, on July 29, and authored by three health experts — Nirmal Kumar Ganguly, former Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), V. Samuel Raj, Director of the Centre for Drug Design Discovery & Development (SRM University-Sonipat), and Swati Saxena who holds an M.Phil from the University of Oxford. 

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The white paper explains that the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when disease-causing microbes like, fungi, bacteria, and viruses develop resistance against the drugs that once effectively neutralised them. 

The paper also informed that AMR is identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as one of the significant threats to global health. It is estimated that by the year 2050, 10 million deaths worldwide could be attributed to AMR, it noted.

“With one of the most significant burdens for infectious diseases in India, increased AMR will throw a spanner in its achievement of health targets like eradication of tuberculosis by 2025,” it stated.

“This increased resistance is because the structure of the microbes is altered by prolonged exposure to various drugs, including antibiotics. While some degree of mutation in microbes occurs naturally, the issue of AMR has been expedited as a result of human actions,” it added.

‘Bigger threat than COVID19’

Ganguly, the lead author of the white paper, was quoted  in the press statement, “AMR (antimicrobial resistance) is a bigger threat than COVID-19, we need harmonized on-ground action on human, animal, and environmental fronts to prevent its escalation into a public health emergency. India and many low and middle-income countries are already seeing a surge in drug resistance, even in common infections”.

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V. Samuel Raj, the second author of the paper, stated, “To understand the emergence and mitigation of drug-resistant hotspots, we need better surveillance. Surveillance data in India is very limited as we are dependent on ICMR’s AMR surveillance network only. The effective antimicrobial agents are rapidly diminishing from the quiver of available standard of care treatment options. This is a major concern”. 

Recommendations for mitigating antimicrobial resistance

Among its recommendations for coping up with the effects of antimicrobial resistance, the white paper suggests authorities develop  mechanisms and standards for harmonized surveillance of AMR in animal, human and environmental ecosystems. 

It also calls for strengthening existing AMR surveillance networks in India through international collaboration.

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“Bring about behavioral change to limit the overuse of antibiotics in humans and misuse of antibiotics in agriculture and livestock industry and leverage public-private partnerships to invest in research and development of new antimicrobials,” it suggested.

It also stressed on the need to establish standardised protocol for the treatment and disposal of pharmaceutical effluents and ensure strict compliance to limit environmental AMR.