WHO: The misuse of antimicrobials, rendering infections more challenging to treat

As per a survey, of 14 countries, mostly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, by the World Health Organization,  misuse of antibiotics denting their efficacy and spawning resistant bacteria which could be responsible for 10 million deaths worldwide by 2050; the development and spread of superbugs are being accelerated by the misuse of antimicrobials, rendering infections more challenging to treat effectively.


Since their discovery, antibiotics have served as the cornerstone of modern medicine. However, the persistent overuse and misuse of antibiotics in human and animal health have encouraged the emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance, which occurs when microbes, such as bacteria, become resistant to the drugs used to treat them.

                Antibiotic resistance happens when germs like bacteria and fungi develop the
ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them
. That means the germs are not killed and continue to grow.

              Antibiotic resistance does not mean the body is becoming resistant to antibiotics; it is that bacteria have become resistant to the antibiotics designed to kill them.

                     As a result, standard medical treatments become ineffective and infections persist and may spread to others. Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance
are sometimes referred to as “superbugs”. This makes infections virtually untreatable, taking us back to the pre-antibiotic era.

  While AMR to some extent is a natural phenomenon, certain human actions accelerate this process of increasing resistance. The single most powerful contributor to resistance is the global unrestrained use of antibiotics. This includes their underuse, overuse and misuse in both human and animal health (food animals and companion animals) and in agriculture.

      An effective way of preventing antibiotic resistance is by using antibiotics only
when they are prescribed by doctors. The first antibiotic was penicillin, discovered by Alexander Fleming.


                 According to a 2016 PLOS Medicine paper, 416 of every 100,000 Indians die of
infectious diseases each year. This is more than twice the U.S.’s crude infectious-disease mortality rate in the 1940s when antibiotics were first used there. If these miracle drugs stop working, no one will be hit harder than India.

                           Three major sources of resistance: overuse of antibiotics by human beings; overuse in the veterinary sector; and environmental antibiotic contamination due to pharmaceutical and hospital discharge.

                      To tackle the first source, India classified important antibiotics under Schedule
H1 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 1945
, so that they couldn’t be sold without prescriptions. Still, Schedule H1 drugs are freely available in pharmacies, with state drug controllers unable to enforce the law widely.

                    As far as veterinary use goes, India’s 2017 National Action Plan on Antimicrobial
Resistance did talk about restricting antibiotic use as growth promoters. Sadly, no progress has been made on this front yet, allowing companies to sell last-resort drugs to farmers over the counter.

 The 2017 document also spoke about regulating antibiotics levels in discharge from pharmaceutical firms that have been pumping massive amounts of antibiotics into local lakes, rivers, and sewers. This has led to an explosion in resistance genes in these waterbodies. Still, India has yet to introduce standards for antibiotics in wastewater, which means antibiotic discharge in sewage is not even being monitored regularly. As the country takes its time to formulate regulations, the toll from antibiotic misuse is growing at an alarming rate. According to a 2013 estimate, around 58,000 newborns die in India each year due to sepsis from resistant bacteria.

Founded in 1948, the World Health Organisation is the United Nations agency that connects nations, partners, and people to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable – so everyone, everywhere can attain the highest level of health. It is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.


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