P Srininvasan I [email protected]
Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), a phenomenon whereby disease-causing microbes become resistant to drugs designed to kill them, is estimated to account for 700,000 deaths every year the world over. By 2050, if the world does not take any action, 10 million lives will be at risk every year from this phenomenon, and 90 per cent of them in Asia and Africa.
“We are running out of time in the fight against AMR. We do not have the luxury of words anymore, we need action and we need it now,” stressed Sunita Narain, director general of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), at the conclusion of a three-day virtual workshop.
The workshop, titled ‘Containing the Silent Pandemic’, was organised by CSE to discuss the future agenda on containing the scourge of AMR through the ‘One-Health’ approach. Over 100 experts from 26 countries attended the workshop, with speakers from Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Iran, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
Although the need for action against AMR has been recognised globally, and institutionalised in the form of national action plans (NAPs), on-ground progress has been slow. Anuj Sharma, technical officer-AMR, Lab and IPC, WHO Country Office for India said, ‘We need to priorities and focus on low-hanging fruits and accept that we cannot do everything at the same time. We need political support. We also need to make AMR everybody’s business.” Anthony D So of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (USA) added, “We need to find the political will to muster funding for NAPs and other AMR action.”
“ On containment of AMR LMIC (low and middle income countries) agendas should be given due importance when designing global guidelines. The financial, social and environmental realities in the Global South do not render themselves to a universal action protocol.” – Amit Khurana, programme director, food safety and toxins unit, CSE.
Narain also underlined the importance of a preventative agenda on AMR. “We cannot follow the trajectory of the developed world in the developing world, of first polluting and then cleaning. The cost of cleaning is high and we cannot afford it. Therefore, we need a preventative agenda in the developing world, to minimise pollution due to and overuse of antimicrobial drugs.” Many panelists spoke about the slow pace of action against AMR, a pandemic deadlier than COVID-19. “We need to rope in all stakeholders — civil society, media, educators, students, etc — to raise awareness about AMR and the need for immediate action against it,” said Khurana. Timothy Jinks, Head of Drug Resistant Infections Priority Programme, Wellcome Trust, added a cautionary note: “The issue of tackling AMR is complex, but this complexity should not be allowed to become a barrier to act. We have enough information and clarity to act. We must act now. Time is running out.”