Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

By Sudheer Kumar K|Updated : November 22nd, 2020

Public Health and Diseases are very important issues for UPSC IAS Prelims and Main Exam (GS Paper-3: Science and Technology) preparation. In this article we will be discussing:

  • What are Antimicrobials?
  • What is Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)?
  • Why Antimicrobial resistance a global concern?
  • What are the reasons for the emergence and spread of Antimicrobial Resistance?
  • Measures taken at the National and Global level and
  • Way Forward

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

Antimicrobials are medicines used to prevent and treat infections in humans, animals and plants. Antimicrobials include antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and antiparasitics. 

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) occurs when microbes- bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites- change over time and no longer respond to medicines. In other words, microbes develop or acquire resistance to medicines (drugs) over time and make infections harder to treat and increase the risk of disease spread, and even death. 

Antimicrobial resistance a global concern because:

  • The emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens threaten our ability to treat common infections.
    • The drug-resistant pathogens cause between 28000 and 38000 deaths in the European Union every year.
  • Emergence of Superbug: Rapid global spread of multi-drug-resistant bacteria called “superbugs” that cause infections not treatable with existing antimicrobial medicines such as antibiotics.
    • For example, In India and world, TB bacterium developed resistance to multiple drugs. That means all the available drugs to cure TB have become ineffective due to resistance to various levels of drugs.
    • About 58000 babies die in India every year from superbug infections passed on from mother to child.
  • The cost of AMR to national economies and their health systems is significant as it affects the productivity of patients or their caretakers through prolonged hospital stays and the need for more expensive and intensive care. 
  • WHO has declared that Antimicrobial Resistance AMR is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity

Reasons for the emergence and spread of Micro:

  • AMR occurs naturally through genetic changes over a period.
  • Antimicrobial-resistant organisms are found in people, animals, food, plants and the environment i.e. in water, soil and air.
  • Overuse and misuse of antimicrobial agents, for instance, for viral infections like flu and cold etc., is the major cause of development of resistance.
  • Indiscriminate use of antibiotics in animals- as growth promoters or for treating diseases or for increasing the milk production etc. - accumulates in humans could lead to bacterial resistance, which would shorten the usable life of human medicines.
  • lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for both humans and animals
  • poor infection and disease prevention and control in health-care facilities and farms 
  • poor access to quality, affordable medicines, vaccines and diagnostics
  • lack of awareness and knowledge
  • lack of enforcement of legislation   

Measures taken at National and Global level

  • India's National Action Plan (NAP) for AMR was released in April 2017. The objectives of the Plan include:
    • improving awareness,
    • enhancing surveillance measures,
    • strengthening infection prevention and control,
    • research and development,
    • promoting investments, and
    • collaborative activities to control AMR
  • World Health Assembly has adopted the“Global action plan on antimicrobial resistance”:
    • to improve awareness
    • to reduce the incidence of infection
    • to optimize the use of antimicrobial agents etc.

Way Forward

  • WHO identified priority pathogen list which includes new antibacterials– for example, to treat carbapenem-resistant gram-negative bacterial infections.
  • Unless people change the way antibiotics are used now, these new antibiotics will also develop resistance and become ineffective.
  • Hence, It is important to note that:
    • Take antimicrobials only as and when a doctor prescribes.
    • Stop (self-medication) taking medicines on your own.


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