The World Health Organization (WHO) has recently stressed the importance of a strengthened and comprehensive approach to addressing the global problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). The impact of AMR on health has been alarmingly significant in our society.
Dr. Anil Gurnani, a Critical Care Specialist and Group Director of Kailash Hospitals, explained in an interview with HT Lifestyle that AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites change over time and the patient no longer responds to medicines, making infections more difficult to treat and potentially leading to death. He highlighted that India bears one of the largest burdens of drug-resistant pathogens globally, with an estimated 2 million deaths projected to occur in the country by 2050 due to AMR. Worldwide, 700,000 people die each year from AMR, and an additional 10 million deaths are projected by 2050. AMR alone kills more people than cancer and road traffic accidents combined. Dr. Gurnani emphasized that AMR interferes with a person’s overall treatment, reducing their quality of life. Taking antibiotics for common colds and fevers, or not completing a prescribed course of antibiotics, can increase the risk of antibiotic resistance. This results in longer hospital stays, increased medical costs, and a higher likelihood of severe or complicated illness, or even death, as the bacteria or virus becomes resistant to medications.
Dr. Gurnani outlined several causes of AMR, including overuse of antimicrobials, lack of access to clean water, poor sanitation and hygiene, inadequate infection control, limited access to quality antibiotics, and lack of awareness and knowledge. AMR is a significant public health issue in India, often referred to as a silent pandemic.
Dr. Gurnani stressed that AMR affects people at any stage of life, as many tend to buy over-the-counter medication and suffer silently due to a lack of understanding about how the medication works. He advised individuals to consult a doctor and follow their prescribed instructions instead of taking medication without knowledge. Building a trusting doctor-patient relationship is crucial. The aim is to raise awareness to ensure patient safety, and patients should take utmost care of their health and refrain from self-administering antibiotics.
Dr. Gurnani also emphasized the need to educate people on the rational use of antimicrobials and increase awareness among nurses and other healthcare providers. AMR is a common occurrence in the treatment of tuberculosis, malaria, pneumonia, and typhoid, leading to unnecessary suffering for patients. This issue needs to be highlighted so that patients are encouraged to consult a doctor whenever they have health problems and take medication as advised.