Antimicrobial Resistance may Become a Silent Pandemic

Synopsis:

The challenges posed by Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) demands a comprehensive and collaborative approach by all the countries. They must come together to tackle the silent pandemic.

Background:
  • Covid 19 exposed the vulnerabilities of health systems across the globe. It took away the lives of more than 3 million people since January 2020.
  • Experts believe that greater destruction would be caused by AMR in the coming years. This calls for taking strong steps at the national and global levels.
What is AMR?
  • It is a phenomenon by which bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses evolve and become resistant to presently available Antimicrobial resistance treatment.
  • The infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others.
Reasons behind the development of AMR:

Primary reasons:

  • Misuse of antimicrobials in medicine – This happens when the proper course of medication is not done or the person indulges in self-medication.
  • Inappropriate use in agriculture – Antibiotics are used to boost the productivity of livestock.
  • Contamination around pharmaceutical manufacturing sites –  The untreated waste releases large amounts of active antimicrobials into the environment.
Secondary Reasons:
  • No new antimicrobial developments: No new classes of antibiotics have made it to the market in the last three decades. This is a result of inadequate incentives for their development and production.
    • A recent report from the non-profit PEW Trusts found that over 95% of antibiotics in development today are from small companies.
  • Easily Availability: Antimicrobials are easily available as ‘over the counter drugs’ in many countries. This ease facilitates more consumption and development of AMR.
Challenges posed by AMR development:
  • Threat to the health care system: Antimicrobials prevent infections post a routine surgery or cancer treatment. Their ineffectiveness would impair the modern health system. 
    • The problem is more grave for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) of Asia and Africa where cheap antimicrobials have significantly reduced the mortality rates.
  • Loss of Human Lives: It is responsible for up to 7 lakh deaths a year. It is estimated that 10 million annual deaths would be caused by it post 2050.
  • Economic Brunt: The countries would require abundant capital to manage the AMR crisis in the future. As per an estimate, it may cost up to $100 trillion by 2050.
Way Forward:
  • Accessibility: There is a need to ensure better accessibility of antimicrobials. Globally, 5.7 million people die every year because they cannot access drugs for infections that are treatable.
  • Incentivisation: The companies must be encouraged to develop new antimicrobial drugs. In this regard, a multi-sectoral $1 billion AMR Action Fund was launched in 2020 to support the development of new antibiotics.
  • Judicious Use: There must be appropriate and judicious use of antimicrobial drugs. Countries can learn from:
    • Peru’s efforts on patient education to reduce unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions
    • EU-supported VALUE-Dx programme that has increased the use of point-of-care diagnostics. This has resulted in prudent drug intake.
  • Tracking the spread of AMR: Surveillance measures to identify these organisms need to expand beyond hospitals. They should encompass livestock, wastewater, and farm run-offs.
    • For instance, Denmark’s efforts to prevent the use of antibiotics in livestock had reduced AMR prevalence and boosted agricultural productivity.
    • Similarly, countries must formulate a dedicated and holistic plan to deal with AMR like India’s National Action Plan for antimicrobial resistance.
  • Global Coordination: International alignment and coordination are paramount in both policymaking and its implementation. The countries can use the Paris Agreement as a blueprint for developing a similar global approach to tackling AMR.

Source: The Hindu 

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