AMR and its consequences on human life

By Dr S V N Vijayendra

Dr S V N Vijayendra

Antibiotic resistance in microorganisms has become quite familiar in recent years. It results from unnecessary use (over or misuse) of excessive quantities of antibiotics, mainly in animal husbandry and poultry, besides human applications. It has spread to pathogenic bacteria, making it tough to control. As a result, World Antibiotics Awareness Week is celebrated from 18th to 24th November every year since 2015.

However, during the last year, with a broad focus on resistance to several antimicrobial compounds such as antifungals, antiparasitics, antibiotics, and antivirals, in bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, its title has been changed to ‘World Antimicrobial Awareness Week’ (WAAW). The theme for this WAAW celebrations was ‘Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance.’ The message is very clear. It calls on policymakers, health stakeholders, health care providers, and the general public to be aware of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and its consequences on human life.

The World Health Organisation has declared AMR as one of the top ten global health threats. AMR can affect the environment, plants, and humans as well. Reduction of AMR needs a multisectoral holistic approach, which is also referred to as the ‘One Health’ approach. AMR in pathogenic microbes makes common infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and salmonellosis hard to treat and increases the risk of disease spread, and it may lead to death also.

These AMR microbes can even spread through foods and water. Antimicrobials should be handled with care and caution to avoid the spread of AMR. It should be used when it is absolutely necessary. Using antimicrobials as growth promoters in meat animals and poultry is posing a great threat universally. AMR is expected to lead to an additional expenditure of US $ 1.20 trillion per year by 2050. AMR can extend hospital stays and expensive medicines, besides posing increased risk during major surgery and cancer chemotherapy. 

Global Action Plan on AMR was set in 2015: The WHO, Food and Agriculture Organisation and World Organisation for Animal Health are committed to addressing AMR. The Global Antimicrobial Resistance and Use Surveillance System were initiated in 2015 to provide knowledge and strategies to reduce AMR in the food chain, environment, and human treatment through surveillance. Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership of WHO and Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative aimed to develop and deliver five new treatments that target drug-resistant bacteria by 2025. 

To prevent and control the spread of antibiotic resistance, the WHO has recommended for individuals to use antibiotics only when prescribed by a certified health professional, not to demand doctors to prescribe antibiotics when it is not needed, follow doctor’s advice when using antibiotics, not to share or use leftover antibiotics, besides preventing infections by regularly washing hands, preparing food hygienically, avoiding close contact with sick people, practicing safer sex, and keeping vaccinations up to date.

Preparing food hygienically’ by following the WHO’s ‘Five Keys to Safer Food’ that is keeping foods clean, separating raw and cooked foods, cooking thoroughly, keeping food at safe temperatures, using safe water and raw materials, choosing foods that have been produced without the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or disease prevention in healthy animals. 

Lack of clean water, sanitation, and handwashing facilities universally, coupled with inadequate infection prevention, are causing several common infections necessitating the use of antimicrobials. Hence, sanitation and hygiene also play a lot in the emergence and minimising of the spread of AMR. 

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