China can help stop mis­use of an­tibi­otics

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE -

For around 90 years, an­tibi­otics have been the go-to medicine for many ill­nesses. How­ever, their sys­tem­atic mis­use and overuse in hu­man medicine and food pro­duc­tion is mak­ing bac­te­ria in­creas­ingly re­sis­tant to their ef­fects. Re­sis­tance is also grow­ing to drugs com­monly used to com­bat viruses, fungi and other par­a­sites. This phe­nom­e­non is called an­timi­cro­bial re­sis­tance (AMR).

Imag­ine com­mon sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures such as a cae­sarean sec­tion, or a sim­ple bout of pneu­mo­nia sud­denly be­com­ing life threat­en­ing be­cause we can’t fight in­fec­tions with an­tibi­otics or other an­timi­cro­bial drugs— that’s the sit­u­a­tion we face if we don’t act onAMRnow.

Un­less im­me­di­ate ac­tion on a global scale is taken, the world is head­ing to­ward a post-an­tibi­otic era in which com­mon in­fec­tions could once again kill. Re­sis­tance to an­tibi­otics could be re­spon­si­ble for killing 10 mil­lion peo­ple ev­ery year across the world over the next 30 years. That’s the equiv­a­lent to one per­son ev­ery 3 sec­onds — which is more deaths than can­cer causes to­day. The im­pact on na­tional economies will be equally stag­ger­ing: dur­ing the same time frame, with­out ac­tion to tack­leAMR, the global cu­mu­la­tive eco­nomic cost is pro­jected to reach about $100 tril­lion.

Clearly we can­not af­ford to sit idle if we care about the fu­ture of our fam­i­lies and those of com­ing gen­er­a­tions.

That is why theWorldHealth Or­ga­ni­za­tion was es­pe­cially pleased with the com­mit­ment shown by the G20 coun­tries at their meet­ing in­Hangzhou ear­lier this month to ad­dress the “threat to pub­lic health, growth and global eco­nomic sta­bil­ity” posed by AMR.

Nowis the time to build on this mo­men­tum. This week, theUnit­edNa­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly will hold a high-level meet­ing on AMR. That this is only the fourth time in its his­tory that the Gen­eral Assem­bly is hold­ing such a meet­ing on a health is­sue is a fur­ther sig­nal that global lead­ers rec­og­nize the cat­a­strophic con­se­quences of fail­ing to tack­leAMR. While this high-level meet­ing is a mile­stone, the true mea­sure of its value will be what hap­pens next. And this will re­quire lead­er­ship and ac­tion.

I be­lieve the global war onAMR can­not be won with­out China’s lead­er­ship— and China is well and truly step­ping up to the plate. Last month, China is­sued the Na­tional Ac­tion Plan to Con­tain An­timi­cro­bial Re­sis­tance. And the strength of China’s re­search and de­vel­op­ment in­dus­try also makes it well suited to act as the global leader in the de­vel­op­ment of new drugs and tech­nolo­gies.

China has a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity to serve as an ex­am­ple to the rest of the world by demon­strat­ing how the same multi-sec­tor col­lab­o­ra­tion that de­liv­ered its na­tional ac­tion plan onAMR must be fol­lowed by multi-sec­tor im­ple­men­ta­tion.

As with many of to­day’s prob­lems there is no sil­ver bul­let. Given the multi-sec­toral na­ture of AMR, ac­tion is needed on the part of hu­man medicine (doc­tors, nurses, phar­ma­cists, pa­tients), an­i­mal medicine (vets, farm­ers, the food in­dus­try), the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal in­dus­try and the gen­eral pub­lic. We must im­prove aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing of AMR: among those who pre­scribe and dis­pense an­tibi­otics, but also amongst pa­tients— for in­stance, aware­ness about tak­ing an­tibi­otics cor­rectly. We need to re­duce the in­ci­dence of in­fec­tion— by get­ting peo­ple se­ri­ous about wash­ing their hands ef­fec­tively, es­pe­cially in hos­pi­tals. Wash­ing hands can also pre­vent the spread of dis­eases from an­i­mals to hu­mans. And we need to in­crease in­vest­ment in newmedicines, di­ag­nos­tic tools, vac­cines and other in­ter­ven­tions.

That China is al­ready do­ing many of these things shows that it is poised to lead the global fight onAMR. WHOhopes to see all coun­tries build upon the mo­men­tum of the G20Hangzhou Sum­mit, and this week’sHigh Level Meet­ing at theUNGen­eral Assem­bly, through the de­vel­op­ment of their own na­tional ac­tion plans onAMR. And ev­ery­one, ev­ery­where can and must do their bit— by tak­ing sim­ple steps such as not pres­sur­ing doc­tors to pre­scribe an­tibi­otics, and us­ing them care­fully if they are re­quired. We are stand­ing at a turn­ing point. Nowis the time for de­ci­sive ac­tion. Fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will look back and judge us for the ac­tion we take on this is­sue to­day.

The au­thor isWHOrep­re­sen­ta­tive in China.

CAI MENG / CHINA DAILY

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