Combating AMR

In November each year, World Anti­biotics Awareness Week (WAAW) provides a crucial opportunity to ed­ucate the public, health profession­als, and policymakers about the dan­gers of antibiotic resistance. This phenomenon, known as Antimicro­bial Resistance (AMR), poses a sig­nificant threat to human health, with dire consequences if not addressed promptly and collaboratively. AMR occurs when bacteria develop resis­tance due to the overuse of antibiot­ics, and it is now recognized as a ma­jor public health crisis.

AMR has reached alarming lev­els globally, with an estimated 700,000 deaths occurring annual­ly due to resistant infections. If left unchecked, AMR could lead to 300 million deaths worldwide by 2050. The indiscriminate use of antibi­otics in humans, animals, and ag­riculture contributes to the rise of superbugs—extremely resistant bacteria. The misuse of antibiotics, exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, jeopardises the effec­tiveness of essential drugs.

In Pakistan, antibiotic use is alarmingly high, both in human and animal health. The misuse of anti­biotics, particularly for viral infec­tions, contributes to the rise of su­perbugs, causing numerous deaths and hospitalizations annually. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandem­ic, global antibiotic use has surged, further intensifying the AMR crisis.

A key strategy in combating AMR is the extensive use of vaccines, which can prevent infections and re­duce the overuse of antibiotics. Vac­cines for pneumonia, diarrheas, oti­tis media, meningitis, and typhoid have shown remarkable success in reducing infections and, conse­quently, antibiotic use. Pakistan’s National Action Plan for combating AMR recognizes vaccines as a cru­cial tool in addressing this issue.

The benefits of vaccines, such as the Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine (TCV), in mitigating the burden of resistant strains can be substantial. Ensuring universal coverage of rel­evant vaccines is vital in the fight against AMR. A collaborative and ho­listic “One Health” approach, involv­ing various sectors like human and veterinary medicine, agriculture, fi­nance, environment, and consum­ers, is essential to decrease AMR.

Education and awareness are critical to promoting vaccine up­take, prudent antibiotic use, and infection control measures. As we observe the 2023 World Antimicro­bial Resistance Awareness Week, it is imperative that we act urgently by taking all available steps to curb antimicrobial resistance. Every in­dividual must contribute to this na­tional and global cause to reduce AMR, prevent the spread of super­bugs, and safeguard lives, including the future of our children.

PROFESSOR EJAZ A KHAN

ISLAMABAD

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