Prelims cum Mains Science & Tech

WHO seeks to curb menace of drug resistance

In News

  • World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified antibiotics into different groups based on their therapeutic efficacy and to curb the increasing risk of antimicrobial resistance and superbug infections.


About Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

  • Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials) from working against it.
  • As a result, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.

AMR Globally

  • Over 7 lakh deaths each year are attributed to drug resistance.
  • Currently, it is estimated that more than 50% of antibiotics in many countries are used inappropriately such as for treatment of viruses when they only treat bacterial infections or use of the wrong (broader spectrum) antibiotic, thus contributing to the spread of antimicrobial resistance.
  • Solution:
  • In the absence of new significant investments into the development of new antibiotics, improving the use of antibiotics is one of the key actions needed to curb the spread of antimicrobial.


Antibiotic Resistance

  • The term antibiotic resistance (AR or ABR) is a subset of AMR, as it applies only to bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics.
  • Unnecessary prescriptions and misuse of antibiotics are causing drug resistance for several critical diseases including tuberculosis, HIV, urinary tract infection and malaria.
  • Rising level of resistance is also causing risks in life-saving medical procedures.


Drug Resistance in India

  • Antibiotics are the most sold drugs segment in India with sales of over Rs 1,000 crore.
  • Antibiotic resistance has emerged as a major risk undermining many other advances in medicine.
  • In India, an additional two million lives can be lost till 2050 due to drug resistance.
  • Some of the steps taken by the government and the regulators to curb the menace includes :
    • A national action plan
    • Introduction of red line on packs of high end antibiotics to differentiate them from other drugs
    • Fixing ‘tolerance limits’ for presence of antibiotics in food items.


World Antibiotic Awareness Week is held every November (since 2015) aims to increase global awareness of antibiotic resistance (AMR) and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance


News Summary

  • The AWaRe tool has been developed by the WHO Essential Medicines List to contain rising resistance and make antibiotic use safer and more effective.
  • It classifies antibiotics into four groups, i.e. Access, Watch, Reserve and Discouraged.

  • It specifies which antibiotics to use for the most common and serious infections, which ones should be available at all times in the healthcare system, and those that must be used sparingly or preserved and used only as a last resort.
  • WHO has asked member-countries, including India, to adopt the classification in their health systems to cut the spread of antimicrobial resistance.


Significance of the move:

  • The classification of antibiotics makes it easier for policy-makers and medical professionals to select the right antibiotic and protect the endangered antibiotics.

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