World Antibiotic Awareness Week: Looking at the microbe’s rebellion

As antibiotics become ineffective, disease causing microbes are on a rampage

By DTE Staff
Published: Monday 18 November 2019
Illustration: Getty Images

During the 1950s and ’60s, antibiotics could easily cure infectious diseases. Over the years, however, persistent overuse and misuse of antibiotics in human and animal health has encouraged the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance among microbes such as bacteria.

Antibiotic resistance will kill an estimated 10 million people every year by 2050, up manifold from 700,000 in 2016. Loss of life, increased stay in hospitals, ineffective treatments and side effects will likely result in an annual economic loss of $ 100 trillion by then.

The World Antibiotic Awareness Week provides an annual opportunity to increase knowledge about antibiotic-resistance. The aim is to boost best practices among people, health workers and policy makers.

The focus this year is to prevention infections by simple methods such as hand-washing, vaccination and safe sex.

There will be a slew of events at platforms across the world to talk about actions in human health, animal health and the environment from November 18, 2019 to protect such resources.

In India, the National Science Museum in Delhi has set up a travelling exhibition ‘Superbugs: The end of Antibiotics?’ Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Harsh Vardhan and Minister of State for Culture Prahlad Singh Patel flagged it off on September 6. After the awareness week, it will travel to other states. 

India is the biggest consumer of antibiotics and its environment is heavily contaminated with residues. There are reports of microbes increasingly becoming resistant to antibiotics.

One example: In 2008, about 29 per cent of isolates of Staphylococcus aureus were methicillin resistant; by 2014, this jumped to 47 per cent.

Despite many reports on resistant microbes, there is not much data on their health impact. A small indication: 56,524 neonates die each year from resistance-attributable neonatal sepsis caused by bacteria resistant to first-line antibiotics, according to a 2016 Lancet study.

India developed its National Action Plan on AMR in 2017 but only Kerala and Madhya Pradesh have come up with state action plans.

The health ministry identified AMR among 10 top priorities on which to collaborate with the World Health Organization.

Antimicrobial resistance hasn’t been given adequate attention in sustainable development goals (SDG) on poverty (SDG 1), food production (SDG 2), health (SDG 3), economic growth (SDG 8), inequality (SDG 10), and the environment (with specific reference to SDG 6 on water, SDG 14 on life below water and SDG 15 on life on land).

Antibiotic resistance will kill an estimated 10 million people every year by 2050; most of them from developing countries. Our latest book in the State of India’s Health series unravels a public health crisis in India that is going to soon become a nightmare. Visit our store for your copy of Body Burden: Antibiotic Resistance

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