Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been identified as one of the 10 threats to global health in 2019 by World Health Organization (WHO). The other threats on this list include HIV, Ebola, dengue, vaccine hesitancy, air pollution and climate change. The health organization has warned that if action is not taken to prevent overuse of antibiotics, we could go back to the time when it was hard to treat infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea and salmonellosis. Indiscriminate use of antibiotics in India, with drugs even entering our food chain and water, means drug-resistant bacteria is already a major concern here. This is why the Union health ministry has formulated the National Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (NAP AMR) 2017-21. Officials said government plans to frame guidelines regarding antibiotic use and over-the-counter sales, ban or restrict their use as growth enhancers in livestock, and improve prescription audits in hospitals and the medical community.
AIIMS and some other prominent hospitals are coordinating measurement of healthcare-associated infections (HAIs) — infections acquired in hospitals — and sharing protocols to identify and address the gaps. But doctors say more action is required on the ground to prevent AMR. Explaining the implications of AMR, Dr P K Julka, senior director of Max Daycare Oncology said: “Cancer patients often require antibiotics to treat respiratory infections and other complications. The regular ones meant to treat the condition have stopped working in most cases because the patients have already been overexposed to it. Sometimes it leads to higher morbidity and mortality.” The emergence of drug-resistant tuberculosis is another major fallout of antibiotic resistance. According to WHO, in 2017, around 600,000 TB cases globally were resistant to rifampicin – the most effective first-line drug – and 82 percent of these people had multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. – TOI