The world recognizes the threat posed by antimicrobial resistance (AMR), but on-ground action is slow – say experts at CSE’s Africa-Asia meet

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The world recognizes the threat posed by antimicrobial resistance (AMR), but on-ground action is slow – say experts at CSE’s Africa-Asia meet

“We are running out of time in the fight against antimicrobial resistance (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.

CSE
CSE

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.

AMR, a phenomena 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.

Although the need for action against AMR has been recognized globally and institutionalized in the form of national action plans (NAPs), on-ground progress has been slow. Said Anuj Sharma, technical officer-AMR, Lab and IPC, WHO Country Office for India: “How do we make progress on NAPs? We need to prioritize 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.”

A CDC infographic on how antibiotic resistance (a major type of antimicrobial resistance) happens and spreads.
A CDC infographic on how antibiotic resistance (a major type of antimicrobial resistance) happens and spreads.

The One-Health approach implies greater synergy between human, animal, and environmental health sectors and is emerging as an optimum response to AMR. Narain said, “To be true to its name, One-Health needs to focus on global and national food system transformation. It needs to work intensely on animal health. It needs to recognise the role and importance of the environment with regard to AMR. And it needs to achieve all this in the context of national and local backgrounds, which vary widely and may have specific requirements.”

Expanding on this point, Amit Khurana, programme director, food safety and toxins unit, CSE, said: “LMIC (low and middle income countries) agendas should be given due importance when designing global guidelines on containment of AMR. The financial, social and environmental realities in the Global South do not render themselves to a universal action protocol.”

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.”

Pratyusha Mukherjee
Pratyusha Mukherjee

Reported by Ms. Pratyusha Mukherjee, a Senior Journalist working for BBC and other media outlets, also a special contributor to IBG News. In her illustrated career she has covered many major events and achieved International Media Award for reporting. 

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Antara Tripathy M.Sc., B.Ed. by qualification and bring 15 years of media reporting experience.. Coverred many illustarted events like, G20, ICC,MCCI,British High Commission, Bangladesh etc. She took over from the founder Editor of IBG NEWS Suman Munshi (15/Mar/2012- 09/Aug/2018 and October 2020 to 13 June 2023).
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