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Insights into Editorial: The cost of antimicrobial resistance

Insights into Editorial: The cost of antimicrobial resistance



Antibiotics are drugs that treat infections caused by bacteria, such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections and Strep throat.

They work by either killing bacteria directly or preventing them from reproducing, making it manageable for our immune system to eliminate the bacteria.  

Antimicrobial resistance is one of the greatest threats we face as a global community. This report reflects the depth and scope of the response needed to curb its rise and protect a century of progress in health.

Antibiotics are only effective against bacteria, not viruses. This is because viruses lack the physical structures and cellular machinery that antibiotics interfere with in order to prevent bacterial growth and replication.

Antibiotic resistance is when certain bacteria are no longer eliminated by certain antibiotics

For example, in the case of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), the bacterium, S. aureus, is no longer killed by the antibiotic, methicillin.

Antibiotics and antifungals are both essential to combat infections in people, but antibiotics are also used widely to prevent disease in farm animals, and antifungals are also applied to prevent agricultural plants from rotting.


U.N. Issues Urgent Warning on the Growing Peril of Drug-Resistant Infections:

  • The United Nations warned in a report that, with more and more common medications losing their ability to fight dangerous infections.
  • Few new drugs in the pipeline, the world is facing an imminent crisis that could lead to millions of deaths, a surge in global poverty and an even wider gap between rich and poor countries.
  • The report also highlights underappreciated factors in the spread of drug-resistant germs: the lack of clean water and inadequate sewage systems that sicken millions of people in the developing world.
  • Many of them are too poor to see a doctor and instead buy cheap antibiotics from street vendors with little medical expertise.
  • Sometimes they unknowingly purchase counterfeit drugs, a problem that leads to millions of deaths, most of them in Africa.
  • The rampant overuse of antibiotics and antifungal medicines in humans, livestock and agriculture is accelerating a crisis that is poorly understood by the public and largely ignored by world leaders.
  • Scientists say that unless more effective new medicines are developed and unnecessary use of antimicrobial drugs is sharply curbed, risk will spread to healthier populations.


Drug-resistant diseases could kill 10 million a year by 2050:

  • Without concerted action, Drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050, and trigger an economic slowdown to rival the global financial crisis of 2008.warned the UN Ad Hoc Interagency Coordinating Group on Antimicrobial Resistance in a report.


  • It added that by 2030, antimicrobial resistance could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty. In the worst-case scenario, the world will lose 3.8% of its annual GDP by 2050.



  • Currently, at least 7,00,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases, including 2,30,000 people who die from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.


  • It also noted that more and more common diseases, including respiratory tract infections, sexually transmitted infections and urinary tract infections, are becoming untreatable.



  • Lifesaving medical procedures are becoming riskier, and food systems are getting increasingly precarious.
  • The report noted that the world is already feeling the economic and health consequences as crucial medicines become ineffective.


  • Without investment from countries in all income brackets, future generations will face the disastrous impacts of uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance.


Antimicrobial use in India: Interagency Coordination Group (IACG) on Antimicrobial Resistance Report:

India first published almost nine years ago the broad contours of a plan to fight antimicrobial resistance.

The difficulty has been in implementing it, given the twin challenges of antibiotic overuse and underuse.

On the one hand, many Indians still die of diseases like sepsis and pneumonia because they don’t get the right drug at the right time.

On the other hand, a poorly regulated pharmaceutical industry means that antibiotics are freely available to those who can afford them.

The IACG report acknowledges these obstacles, and calls for efforts to overcome them. Some steps can be initiated right away, it says, such as phasing out critical human-use antibiotics in the animal husbandry sector, such as quinolones.

But these steps cannot be driven by regulation alone.

A multi-stakeholder approach, involving private industry, philanthropic groups and citizen activists is needed.

Private pharmaceutical industries must take it upon themselves to distribute drugs in a responsible manner.

Philanthropic charities must fund the development of new antibiotics, while citizen activists must drive awareness.

These stakeholders must appreciate that the only way to postpone resistance is through improved hygiene and vaccinations.



Health officials are struggling to understand the scope of the problem because many countries are ill-equipped to monitor drug-resistant infections.

In a survey the United Nations conducted for the report, 39 of 146 nations were unable to provide data on the use of antimicrobials in animals, which experts say is a major driver of resistance in humans as resistant bacteria get transferred to people through contaminated food and water.

To reduce outbreaks of infectious disease, the report says, wealthier nations should help poor countries pay for improvements to public hygiene, and ensure greater access to vaccines and properly manufactured antibiotics.

It has now recommended that countries prioritise national action plans to scale-up financing and capacity-building efforts.

They have to be put in place stronger regulatory systems and support awareness programs for responsible and prudent use of antimicrobials by professionals in human, animal and plant health and invest in ambitious research and development for new technologies to combat antimicrobial resistance.