National, Front Page

Climate crisis, AMR ‘dual threat’

Published : 17 Nov 2022 09:51 PM

A World Health Organization (WHO) expert has termed the climate crisis and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) “dual threat” and said this will have the most devastating impacts on low- and middle-income countries and small island developing nations.

 “The links between antimicrobial resistance and the climate crisis have been neglected and require significantly more attention,” Dr Haileyesus Getahun, Director, Global Coordination and Partnership on AMR, and Director, Quadripartite Joint Secretariat on AMR, WHO, said at the second Annual Global Media Forum in lead up to World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2022 (WAAW 2022).

WAAW 2022 is observed worldwide during 18-24 November.

The Annual Global Media Forum was jointly organised by CNS and the partners in the virtual platform. The partners were: Asia Pacific Media Alliance for Health and Development (APCAT Media), Cool FM Radio, Nigeria, Dhaka Reporters Unity (DRU), Health Communicators Forum Zimbabwe, Health Digest Journal Myanmar, Health Journalists Network in Uganda (HEJNU), Health TV Online, Nepal, Kenya Environment and Science Journalists Association (KENSJA), Media Action Nepal, Medical Journalists Association of Ghana, Neon Metin, Timor Leste, Nepal Forum of Science Journalists (NFSJ), SciComPt (Portuguese network of science communication), South Africa Science Journalists’ Association, Sri Lanka Working Journalists Association (SLWJA) and Thailand Society of Environment Journalists (TSEJ).

 Antimicrobial resistance or AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines, making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.

 As a result of drug resistance, antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines become ineffective and infections become increasingly difficult or impossible to treat. Researchers estimated that AMR in bacteria caused an estimated 1.27 million deaths in 2019.

 Dr Haileyesus Getahun said bacterial resistance to antibiotics directly causes 1.27 million annual deaths among humans and indirectly causes or contributes or is associated with an additional 4.95 million annual deaths.

 “This huge loss of human life due to antimicrobial resistance has made it the top killer among all other diseases and conditions. The greatest burden of antimicrobial resistance is in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.”

 According to a 2017 World Bank report, if no action is taken now, antimicrobial resistance is likely to cause an USD 1.2 trillion additional health expenditure per year by 2050, and push up to 24 million additional people (particularly in low-income countries) into extreme poverty by 2030.

“The climate crisis and antimicrobial resistance are two of the greatest and most complex threats currently facing the world,” he said, adding that more financing, political advocacy and coordinated global action are needed to better respond to the converging threats of antimicrobial resistance and the climate crisis before it is too late.

 “Increased political advocacy and financing are urgently needed to mainstream antimicrobial resistance as a climate crisis issue and build resilience to both,” he said.

 “Antimicrobial resistance can directly affect progress on at least 6 out of 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals and can be linked indirectly to the remaining 11 as well,” he said, suggesting ‘one health’ approach.

 “One Health approach is an integrated, unifying approach that aims to sustainably balance and optimize the health of people, animals, and ecosystems. It recognises the health of humans, domestic and wild animals, plants, and the wider environment (including ecosystems) are closely linked and interdependent. One Health approach can effectively address the challenge of antimicrobial resistance.”

 Third Global High-level Ministerial Conference on antimicrobial resistance will be held in Muscat, Oman (24-25 November 2022) hosted by Ministers of Health and Agriculture of Oman.

 One of the important expected outcomes of this global meet is “The Muscat Ministerial Manifesto” with three targets to contain antimicrobial resistance.

 This will pave the way for more bold and specific political commitments in the United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance to be held with world leaders in 2024.

  Junxia Song, Senior Animal Health officer and AMR coordinator, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), at the media forum said AMR will directly or indirectly adversely impact a range of United Nations SDGs including SDGs for good health, zero poverty, zero hunger, clean water and sanitation, and responsible consumption and production.

 For example, 1.3 billion people rely on livestock for their livelihoods especially in low- and middle-income countries. Spread of resistant strains of pathogens impact their livelihoods.

 “It is important to note that 76% of the antibiotics commonly used in food animals are also important for human medicine. 73% of all antimicrobials sold globally are used in food animals. From One Health context, this makes agriculture and food pivotal to the response to the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance. We must ensure that food and agriculture sectors, dependent livelihoods, and economies are made resilient to the impacts of AMR,” said Junxia Song.

 United Nations FAO Action Plan on AMR (2021-2025) calls upon strengthening governance and allocating resources to accelerate and sustain progress in containing AMR; promoting responsible use to keep antimicrobials working; strengthening surveillance and research to support evidence-based decisions; and enabling good practices to prevent infections and control the spread of resistant microbes.