New Delhi: The World Health Organisation has highlighted the urgent need for sustained multisectoral action to prevent and contain antimicrobial resistance (AMR) which occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites no longer respond to medicines, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of severe illness and death.
"New global estimates show that in 2019, nearly 5 million human deaths worldwide were associated with bacterial AMR of which 1.3 million human deaths were directly attributable to bacterial AMR," Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, said in a statement on Friday. She was speaking as part of the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW).
"In a high-impact scenario, AMR will reduce global annual GDP by 3.8 per cent by 2050. If left unchecked, in the next decade, it could result in a GDP shortfall of USD 3.4 trillion annually, pushing 24 million more people into extreme poverty," the statement said.
Since 2014, preventing and combating AMR has been one of the eight flagship priorities of the WHO South-East Asia Region, which is at high risk for the emergence and spread of AMR.
All member states continue to implement national action plans to address AMR, and in each member state, a multisectoral working group or coordination committee on AMR has been established in alignment with the Global Action Plan on AMR adopted in 2015, Singh said.
Most member states continue to implement national monitoring systems for resistance pathogens and antimicrobial consumption as well as foster stewardship in human health. They are also enrolled in the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS) AMR and the South-East Asia Region is the only WHO region in which all countries carry out the annual Tracking AMR Country Self-Assessment surveys, which this year was expanded to include the environment sector for the first time.
"Despite this progress, countries of the region continue to face an array of multisectoral challenges, as highlighted in a review of progress launched at the 75th session of the WHO Regional Committee for South-East Asia in September 2022.
"Such challenges include unsafe disposal of medicine and pharmaceutical waste, inadequate regulation of antimicrobial use in food production, insufficient infection prevention and control in health facilities, and inadequate access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene in homes and health facilities," the statement noted.
"The climate crisis is creating additional breeding grounds for antimicrobial-resistant bacteria," it added.
For this year's WAAW, the 'One Health Quadripartite', which includes the World Health Organisation (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is highlighting the urgent need to address AMR with the theme "Preventing antimicrobial resistance together".