Explainer: How climate change has become one of leading causes of AMR deaths in India

The climate change is challenging the advancements in modern medicines, since the microorganisms are developing resistance and require new medicines for treatment.
Explainer: How climate change has become one of leading causes of AMR deaths in India

Climate change is not only increasing the number of extreme weather events resulting in economic losses and casualties but is creating a major public health concern in the form of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Among several other causes, AMR is also caused due to the excessive use of antimicrobials in humans, animals, and plants. This drastically high usage will result in the development of drug-resistant pathogens.

The fast advances in modern medicines are driven back since the infections become challenging to treat. The medicines become ineffective since they no longer respond to the already existing medicines.

What are antimicrobials?

Antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiparasitics are antimicrobials used to in humans, animals, and plants to treat infectious diseases.

What is AMR?

The condition when the bacterial virus, fungus, and parasites do not respond to antimicrobial medicines is called AMR. 

Drug resistance is prevailing in bacteria, fungi, HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases. The challenge is not restricted to any specific country since it exists across countries.

When can this happen?

Dr Nalinikantha Panigrahy, Neonatologist and development pediatrician of Rainbow Hospitals, Hyderabad said, “The microorganisms, due to intrinsic behavior want to survive and they develop some resistance. During such instances, these organisms do not respond to treatment currently available”.

In India 2,97,000 deaths are attributed to AMR and 10,42,500 deaths are associated with AMR in 2019. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that 1.27 million people across the globe died due to bacterial AMR in 2019.

Role of climate change in the development of AMR 

The change in climate or global warming has remained a concerning challenge in recent decades. The practices in agriculture, livestock, burning of bio-fossils, deforestation, and massive industrial pollution result in climate change.

“For an increase of one-degree centigrade, the microorganisms develop 14-15 times resistance. The resistance in hot regions is higher than that existing in colder regions”, Dr Nalinikantha said.

Excess use of antibiotics

Despite the bodies including WHO and respective governments prescribing low-cost medicines, people tend to go for antibiotics without proper consultation with doctors.

Dr Nalinikantha pointed to similar usage of such antibiotics in animals, agricultural practices, plants, and livestock leading to resistance patterns. “Such practices result in challenges to the health care facilities”, he said.

Water contamination by plastic and industrial waste encourages the growth and fast multiplication of microorganisms leading to developing resistance.

Impact of water and air pollution

Air pollution level in India is considered highly dangerous, with more than 1.4 billion people exposed to high levels of particulate material (PM2.5). In addition, almost 70% of surface water in the country is unfit for consumption. 

 “The poor quality air damages the respiratory tract directly. The viruses which were not supposed to cause infection are now causing infection. How to mitigate this challenge is a big question”, Dr Nalinikantha added.

AMR from water pollution is another major healthcare concern as per the statement of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Impact on economy

The AMR demands more research since newer antibiotics and other medicines are needed to overcome the newer version of the microorganisms. The concerned governments have to spend more on such activities.

“The families getting infected need to spend a lot of money to overcome the conditions. This becomes an economic setback for them”, he said.

The restrictions in prescribing antibiotics, refraining from suggestion of high cost and high dose antibiotics along with a public policy framing from the government can limit the challenges to a certain limit. The usage of animals, plants, and livestock, directly used by humans also needed a cautious approach.

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