Antimicrobial puzzle: Action and awareness is the key

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Antimicrobial puzzle: Action and awareness is the key

Tuesday, 07 November 2023 | Sangeeta Sharma

Misuse and overuse of antibiotics, poor infection prevention, and lack of sanitation, all contribute to the alarming rise of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

In today's fast-paced world, where medical advancements are celebrated, there exists a silent threat of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) that has been steadily gaining ground. As the efficacy of antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs wanes, we are confronted with a serious challenge to our health and well-being. It’s time we understand the gravity of this situation and take collective action.

India faces a significant burden from infectious diseases and ranks second in global antibiotic consumption, increasing by 47% from 2010 to 2020. Misuse and abuse of antibiotics is a key driver for the development of AMR. Free over-the-counter availability and self-medication by the patients fuel this rise. Antibiotics are societal drugs, distinct from other medications, as their misuse not only affects individual health but also contributes significantly to the growing global threat of AMR, impacting public health & society at large.

Active patient and public involvement are crucial for responsible antibiotic use, promoting understanding, preventive measures, and healthcare efficiency.

Overuse in animal husbandry, aquaculture and agriculture worsens the issue. Integrating efforts between humans, animals, and the environment is vital. Public support for responsible farming, policy advocacy, proper food handling, sustainable practices, and awareness can help reduce antimicrobial use. Let us join hands in this battle, raising awareness and taking action to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics, the most vital medical resource for ourselves and future generations.

What is Antimicrobial Resistance? Antimicrobial Resistance occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites evolve and become resistant to the drugs designed to kill them. Misuse and overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals, poor infection prevention, and lack of clean water and sanitation all contribute to the alarming rise of AMR.

Why Should We Be Concerned as We Move to the Post-antibiotic Era? AMR doesn’t discriminate and knows no borders. It affects anyone, at any age, in any country. As AMR continues to rise, the number of effective antibiotics decreases. If AMR is not addressed urgently, we might enter a post-antibiotic era where even minor infections could become deadly which could once be treated with antibiotics, leading to prolonged illness, increased healthcare costs, and a higher risk of spreading diseases to others.

The Role of Public Awareness: Education is our most powerful tool in the fight against AMR. Informed individuals, communities, and healthcare providers can make prudent choices, promoting judicious antibiotic use. The DSPRUD school campaigns, supported by WHO, the Delhi Government, and ECHO India, illuminate the way. Over 600,000 students from 1000+ Delhi schools participated in 2019. Adapting to the pandemic, the 2020 online campaign reached 3,500 teachers and 350,000 students. In 2022, a focused online campaign involved 180 teachers, emphasizing microorganisms, AMR, hygiene, and one-health practices. These efforts empower communities and shape a responsible generation that understands the importance of responsible antimicrobial use. Education, paired with determination, creates change.

Our Collective Responsibility: Communities, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and individuals all play vital roles in combating AMR. Properly using antibiotics, following healthcare advice, and demanding responsible practices from the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries are essential steps.

The Way Forward: In a world where the misuse of antibiotics poses a growing threat to global health security, the World AMR Awareness Week (WAAW) provides a unique opportunity for individuals, healthcare professionals, policymakers, and communities to unite in the shared goal of preserving the efficacy of antimicrobial drugs. By embracing the theme of community empowerment and responsible use, we can collectively work towards a future where antimicrobials remain effective, ensuring a healthier and safer world for generations to come.

Join the Movement: The upcoming WAAW from November 18-24, 2023, holds significant importance in our global efforts to combat AMR. This year's theme, 'Empowering Communities, Promoting Responsible Use,' underscores the pivotal role of local engagement and education in curbing AMR. Let’s stand united against AMR. By educating ourselves and our communities, we can safeguard our future generations. Together, we can preserve the effectiveness of antimicrobial drugs, ensuring that when we need them, they work.

Spread the word. Save our antibiotics. Protect our future.

(The writer is Professor and head, Neuropsychopharmacology, Institute of Human Behaviour & Allied Sciences (IHBAS) and president, Delhi Society for Promotion of Rational Use of Drugs (DSPRUD); views are personal)

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