Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a growing global problem to which the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic may further contribute. With resources deployed away from antimicrobial stewardship, evidence of substantial preemptive antibiotic use in Covid-19 patients and indirectly, with deteriorating economic conditions fuelling poverty potentially impacting on levels of resistance, AMR threat remains significant.

Antimicrobial Resistance

Antimicrobial Resistance: Threat to Global Health Security

  • Antimicrobial Resistance (Meaning):
    • Antimicrobial resistance is the resistance acquired by any microorganism (bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasite, etc.) against antimicrobial drugs (such as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, antimalarials, and anthelmintics) that are used to treat infections.
    • As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.
    • Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are sometimes referred to as “superbugs”.
  • Basis of Antimicrobial Resistance:
    • Some bacteria due to the presence of resistance genes are intrinsically resistant and therefore survive on being exposed to antibiotics.
    • Bacteria can also acquire resistance. This can happen in two ways:

      • By sharing and transferring resistance genes present in the rest of the population, or
      • By genetic mutations that help the bacteria survive antibiotic exposure.
  • Reasons for Spread of Antimicrobial Resistance:
    • The misuse of antimicrobials in medicine and inappropriate use in agriculture.
    • Contamination around pharmaceutical manufacturing sites where untreated waste releases large amounts of active antimicrobials into the environment.
  • Concerns:
    • AMR is already responsible for up to 7,00,000 deaths a year.
    • A threat to prevention and treatment of infections – medical procedures such as organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes management and major surgery (for example, caesarean sections or hip replacements) become very risky.
    • Increases the cost of healthcare with lengthier stays in hospitals, additional tests and use of more expensive drugs.
    • It is putting the gains of the Millennium Development Goals at risk and endangers achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
    • No new classes of antibiotics have made it to the market in the last three decades, largely on account of inadequate incentives for their development and production.
    • Without urgent action, we are heading to antibiotic apocalypse – a future without antibiotics, with bacteria becoming completely resistant to treatment and when common infections and minor injuries could once again kill.

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