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Study to check antibiotic resistance in Ganga
For Prelims: what is antibiotic resistance and how it occurs?
For Mains: Issues and concerns associated and ways to address them.
Context: The government has commissioned a ₹9.3 crore study to assess the microbial diversity along the entire length of the Ganga and test if stretches of the 2,500 km long river contain microbes that may promote “antibiotic resistance”.
The aims of the research project is to:
- Indicate the type of “contamination” (sewage and industrial) in the river and “threat to human health (antibiotic resistance surge)”.
- Identify sources of Eschericia coli, a type of bacteria that lives in the gut of animals and humans.
Need for such studies:
A 2017 report commissioned by the Union Department of Biotechnology and the U.K. Research Council underlined that India had some of the highest antibiotic resistance rates among bacteria that commonly cause infections.
Another study reported that levels of resistance genes that lead to “superbugs” were about 60 times greater during the pilgrimage months of May and June than at other times of the year.
What is it?
- Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) 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.
- The term is used in the context of resistance that pathogens or cancers have “acquired”, that is, resistance has evolved.
- When an organism is resistant to more than one drug, it is said to be multidrug-resistant.
Why is Antibiotic Resistance a Big Deal?
The discovery of antibiotics less than a century ago was a turning point in public health that has saved countless lives. Although antibiotic resistance develops naturally with normal bacterial mutation, humans are speeding it up by using antibiotics improperly. According to a research, now, 2 million people a year in the US develop antibiotic-resistant infections, and 23,000 of them die of those infections.
Why is the medical community worried?
Basically, superbugs are becoming more powerful and widespread than ever. Medical experts are afraid that we’re one step away from deadly, untreatable infections, since the mcr-1 E.coli is resistant to that last-resort antibiotic Colistin. Antibiotic-resistance is passed relatively easily from one bacteria to the next, since it is transmitted by way of loose genetic material that most bacteria have in common.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is afraid of a post-antibiotic world, where loads of bacteria are superbugs. Already, infections like tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and pneumonia are becoming harder to treat with typical antibiotics.
Need of the hour:
- A multi-stakeholder approach, involving private industry, philanthropic groups and citizen activists is needed.
- Private pharmaceutical industries must take it upon themselves to distribute drugs in a responsible manner.
- Philanthropic charities must fund the development of new antibiotics, while citizen activists must drive awareness.
- These stakeholders must appreciate that the only way to postpone resistance is through improved hygiene and vaccinations.
Sources: the Hindu.