UN raises alarm over possible disastrous drug-resistance crisis

There is immediate need for  coordinated  action to avert a potentially disastrous drug-resistance crisis in a generation, says the UN Ad hoc Interagency Coordinating Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (IACG).

According to IACG, drug-resistant diseases can cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and damage to the economy as catastrophic as the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

Also, by 2030, antimicrobial resistance could force up to 24 million people into extreme poverty,’’ the group said in a report released on Monday.

The report: “No Time to Wait: Securing the Future From Drug-Resistant Infections’’, a report to the Secretary General of the United Nations April 2019, said presently, at least 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases.

This also includes 230,000 people who die from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis presently.

“More and more common diseases, including respiratory tract infections, sexually transmitted infections and urinary tract infections, are untreatable; lifesaving medical procedures are becoming much riskier, and our food systems are increasingly hazardous.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a global crisis that threatens a century of progress in health and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“Antimicrobial (including antibiotic, antiviral, antifungal and antiprotozoal) agents are critical tools for fighting diseases in humans, terrestrial and aquatic animals and plants, but they are becoming ineffective.

“Alarming levels of resistance have been reported in countries of all income levels, with the result that common diseases are becoming untreatable, and lifesaving medical procedures riskier to perform.

“Antimicrobial resistance poses a formidable challenge to achieving Universal Health Coverage and threatens progress against many of the Sustainable Development Goals, this includes health, food security, clean water and sanitation, responsible consumption and production, and poverty and inequality.’’

Drivers of Antimicrobial Resistance

On some of the causes of antimicrobial resistance, report said they include misuse and overuse of existing antimicrobials in humans, animals and plants are accelerating the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance.

“Also, inadequate access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities, farms, schools, households and community settings; poor infection and disease prevention; lack of equitable access to affordable and quality-assured antimicrobials, vaccines and diagnostics.

“Weak health, food and feed production, food safety and waste management systems are increasing the burden of infectious disease in animals and humans and contributing to the emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens.’’

Highlighting some of the effects of the challenge, the report said that drug-resistant diseases related deaths including deaths from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, could increase to 10 million deaths globally per year by 2050.

“Under the most alarming scenario, if no action is taken, around 2.4 million people could die in high-income countries between 2015 and 2050 without a sustained effort to contain antimicrobial resistance.

“ The economic damage of uncontrolled antimicrobial resistance could be comparable to the shocks experienced during the 2008-2009 global financial crisis as a result of dramatically increased health care expenditures; impact on food and feed production, trade and livelihoods; and increased poverty and inequality.’’

Recognising that human, animal, food and environmental health are closely interconnected, the report called for a coordinated, multisectoral “One Health” approach.

Summary of IACG’s recommendations April 2019

The report recommends countries to prioritise national action plans to scale-up financing and capacity-building efforts.

“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.’’

It also urged countries to invest in ambitious research and development for new technologies to combat antimicrobial resistance and urgently phase out the use of critically important antimicrobials as growth promoters in agriculture.

Reacting to the report in a statement, Ms Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General and Co-Chair of the IACG, said: “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.

“It rightly emphasises that there is no time to wait and I urge all stakeholders to act on its recommendations and work urgently to protect our people and planet and secure a sustainable future for all,’’ she said. 

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