Healthy environment is key for antibiotics to work

“Take some antibiotics, it’s going to be fine in a few days.” How often have we heard this advice?

But what may seem like a quick and easy way out of illness seems increasingly dangerous. And with a rising price tag.

Each time a person or animal is treated with an antibiotic, some of the drug, more than two-thirds of the intake, is excreted into the environment. Once in the environment, in the soil or in the water, these drug residues can take root in drug-resistant organisms, increase in number and then spread to infect humans, animals and plants.

Antibiotics are just one type of antimicrobial. An antimicrobial agent is any substance – natural, semi-synthetic or synthetic – that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa and fungi. It is found in pharmaceuticals such as antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals, and in antiseptics, disinfectants and personal care products.

“While antimicrobials are critical to protecting the health of humans and animals, their abuse, including in the livestock sector, aquaculture and crop production, creates residues in our ecosystems. It upsets the environment, which in turn provides greater opportunity for drug-resistant organisms to thrive, ”said Susan Gardner, Director of Ecosystems for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).

Antimicrobial resistance or AMR occurs naturally. It is the ability of organisms to resist the action of pharmaceuticals used to treat such diseases. However, overuse or misuse of antimicrobials, including antibiotics, gives way and could lead to a global crisis in the environment and health.

Increasing resistance

AMR increases as antibiotics become more widespread in agriculture and food production. Antimicrobials, for example, are often used to promote the growth of animals for meat, then excreted in animal manure and found in the food chain. Antibiotics used in food production also seep back into the soil as a result of agriculture.

The problem is exacerbated by poor waste management practices in many households, farms, factories and healthcare facilities. Antimicrobial resistant microbes spread through the environment as livestock feed and soils enter rich and contaminated wastewater, sludge and manure through antibiotics.

Prevention of ‘superbugs’

As antimicrobial resistance increases, the world is in danger of creating a new generation of “superbugs” – resistant to more than one class of drugs. Even today, drug-resistant infections kill one person every minute. According to health experts, the figure could climb much higher soon. It is estimated that 700,000 people die each year from AMR infections and an innumerable number of sick animals may not respond to treatment.

To highlight the critical role that the environment plays in the global threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), UNEP is supporting the World Week for Antimicrobial Awareness, which runs from 18-25 November 2020.

Collective action

Together with its partners the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the World Health Organization (WHO), UNEP calls on all sectors of society to have a courageous, united agenda to compile. to defeat this global health, sustainability and development threat.

“To address antimicrobial resistance, countries need to put in place policies that encourage best practices in agriculture that prioritize infection prevention. UNEP and partners also support a ‘One Health’ approach, recognizing that human health, the environment and animals are inextricably linked, ‘said Susan Gardner.

The issue is not only receiving attention from policy makers at the highest level, but also from young people. World Antimicrobial Awareness Week also hosted the first Global AMR Youth Summit, where youth leaders and activists gathered to discuss how AMR is affecting their future.

At the opening ceremony of the event, Satya S Tripathi, UN Assistant Secretary-General and Head of the New York Office, emphasized: ‘The leadership of young people at all levels and their knowledge, enthusiasm, imagination and activism will be invaluable. be of value to the world as it acts to mitigate the AMR crisis through an action-oriented ‘One Health’ agenda. ‘

Click here for more information on World Cup Awareness Week 2020

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