Shared re­spon­si­bil­ity to end an­tibi­otics abuse

China Daily (Canada) - - NEWS CAPSULE -

An­tibi­otics have been our mir­a­cle drugs for decades. They have saved mil­lions of lives by cur­ing in­fec­tions that were once deadly, and have played a key role in mak­ing com­plex surg­eries pos­si­ble. But these medicines are fast los­ing their power be­cause of wide­spread overuse and misuse in the hu­man and an­i­mal health sec­tors. This phe­nom­e­non— known as an­timi­cro­bial re­sis­tance or AMR— threat­ens the health and lives of ev­ery­one, the en­vi­ron­ment, as well as the sus­tain­abil­ity of our food and agri­cul­ture pro­duc­tion sys­tems.

Among hu­mans, misuse is driven by peo­ple tak­ing an­tibi­otics when they do not need them; fail­ing to take a full course of an­tibi­otics when pre­scribed; or not fol­low­ing good hy­giene to pre­vent bac­te­rial in­fec­tions. All of these ac­tions al­low bac­te­ria to sur­vive, to develop re­sis­tance to the drugs used to treat them, and to be passed on to oth­ers. Worse, these bac­te­ria will be­come the most re­sis­tant to an­tibi­otics and the most dif­fi­cult to treat. And com­mon sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures such as a cae­sarean sec­tion, or a sim­ple bout of pneu­mo­nia could sud­denly be­come life threat­en­ing be­cause we can’t fight in­fec­tions with an­tibi­otics or other an­timi­cro­bial drugs.

An­tibi­otics are also mis­used and overused in farm­ing to treat and pre­vent in­fec­tions in an­i­mals, to prompt an­i­mal growth, and to meet grow­ing global de­mand for pro­tein-rich food.

In­creas­ing num­bers of peo­ple in both de­vel­oped and de­vel­op­ing coun­tries are ac­quir­ing “su­per­bugs” that do not re­spond to avail­able treat­ments. Ev­ery year, drug-re­sis­tant in­fec­tions kill an es­ti­mated 700,000 peo­ple world­wide— most of them in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. Some es­ti­mates sug­gest the num­ber could rise to 10 mil­lion by 2050— more than the num­ber of peo­ple who cur­rently die from can­cer.

Misuse of an­tibi­otics can also ex­act an enor­mous fi­nan­cial cost. A re­cen­tWorld Bank Group re­port says the fail­ure to tackle AMR by 2050 would re­sult in 1.1 per­cent to 3.8 per­cent fall in an­nual global GDP— on par with the im­pact of the 2008 global fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

Clear­ly­we­have to take ac­tion ifwe­care about the fu­ture of our fam­i­lies and those of com­ing gen­er­a­tions.

Thank­fully we have seen some huge steps taken this year to ad­dress this loom­ing global cri­sis. In Au­gust, China is­sued its Na­tional Ac­tion Plan to Con­tain An­timi­cro­bial Re­sis­tance. In Septem­ber, it hosted the G20 meet­ing in Hangzhou, cap­i­tal city of East China’s Zhe­jiang prov­ince, which com­mit­ted mem­ber coun­tries to ad­dress the “threat to public health, growth and global eco­nomic sta­bil­ity” posed by AMR. The same month China at­tended the United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly High-Level meet­ing on AMR, which fur­ther sig­naled that global lead­ers rec­og­nize the cat­a­strophic con­se­quences of fail­ing to tackle AMR.

The chal­lenge now is to ac­cel­er­ate ag­gres­sive ac­tions to con­trol the growth of AMR. But as with many of to­day’s prob­lems, there is no sil­ver bul­let.

One of the things we must do is to im­prove aware­ness and un­der­stand­ing of AMR, both among those who pre­scribe and dis­pense an­tibi­otics, as well as among pa­tients. An­other is to re­duce the in­ci­dence of in­fec­tion — by get­ting peo­ple se­ri­ous about wash­ing their hands ef­fec­tively, es­pe­cially in hospi­tals and by re­in­forc­ing dis­ease con­trol pre­ven­ta­tive mea­sures and biose­cu­rity lev­els in farms.

This week isWorld An­tibi­otic Aware­nessWeek, and the global ob­jec­tive this year is to en­cour­age re­spon­si­ble pre­scrip­tion and use of an­tibi­otics. We are join­ing forces to sup­port the Na­tional Health and Fam­ily Plan­ning in im­ple­ment­ing China’s Na­tional Ac­tion Plan by help­ing raise aware­ness of the prob­lem, and to spread greater un­der­stand­ing of the role that ev­ery­one — pa­tients, doc­tors, vet­eri­nar­i­ans and farm­ers — can play. Through our ac­tiv­i­ties we hope to build the con­fi­dence and knowl­edge of pro­fes­sion­als across hu­man and an­i­mal health sec­tors on the ra­tio­nal pre­scrip­tion and use of an­tibi­otics, and en­cour­age them to be the driv­ers of be­hav­ioral change. We also hope our ac­tiv­i­ties will help the gen­eral public un­der­stand the im­por­tance of hy­giene in re­duc­ing in­fec­tion and en­cour­ag­ing re­spon­si­ble de­mand and use of an­tibi­otics.

Ev­ery­one, ev­ery­where can and must do their own bit by tak­ing some sim­ple but very im­por­tant steps in fight­ing AMR. We are now stand­ing at a turn­ing point, to which fu­ture gen­er­a­tions will look and say we made the right choice and acted.

Bern­hard Schwartländer isWHO rep­re­sen­ta­tive in China, and Vin­cen­tMartin is FAO Rep­re­sen­ta­tive in China.

WANG XIAOYING / CHINA DAILY

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