As the year 2019 starts are we aware of the impending global apocalypse from antimicrobial resistance (AMR)? What factors are fueling increasing bacterial resistance to antibiotics and what are the solutions?
Good people, as we say goodbye to 2018 and usher in 2019, one of the top most global human existential threats is the increasing antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to commonly used antibiotics and other antimicrobials.
- Antimicrobial agents, of which antibiotics are a subset, have saved hundreds of millions of lives from infectious diseases. Antimicrobial resistant (AMR) organisms are increasing globally, threatening to render existing treatments ineffective against many infectious diseases. Drug resistance strains of bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses prolong illness, increase case fatality, facilitate transmission and increase treatment costs. Varma J. et al. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6295971/
- Many factors contribute to the emergence, persistence and transmission of AMR. Although AMR strains arise naturally due to genetic changes in microorganisms, their emergence is accelerated by inappropriate use of antimicrobial agents in humans, animals and the environment, including self-treatment of illness by lay persons, non-indicated administration by healthcare providers, and addition of antibiotics to animal feed to “promote growth” and prevent illness among animals reared for food consumption, as per Varma et al. But, there is another unrecognized and yet, deadly source of AMR. Read on...
- To put the magnitude of the threat of AMR in perspective, globally, drug resistance causes an estimated 700,000 deaths each year and if current trends continue, AMR could result in over 10 million deaths per year and 100 trillion USD in lost output globally by 2050, which is equivalent to one person dying every 3 seconds if AMR is not tackled now. The evidence below:
- What is the proposed multi-pronged approach to address the AMR menace in Africa? The Africa CDC framework for antimicrobial resistance 2018 -2023: http://www.africacdc.org/resources/strategic-framework
- While the Africa CDC Framework for AMR is fairly comprehensive, it fails to capture the gravity and related lack of awareness of extensive misuse of “antibiotics’ in crop farming and soil contamination from herbicides in general and glyphosate, specifically, as pertains to AMR; Misuse of herbicides like glyphosate, which is a key ingredient in Roundup Weed killer formulations, used extensively in weed control, worldwide, is documented. https://peerj.com/articles/5801/ and https://www.gmwatch.org/en/news/latest-news/18508
- The new study (see above references) adds to a growing body of evidence that herbicides used on a mass industrial scale, but not intended to be antibiotics, can have profound effects on bacteria with potentially negative implications for medicine’s ability to treat infectious diseases caused by bacteria. The University of Canterbury, New Zealand, Professor Jack Heinemann, one of the study’s authors said “The combination of chemicals to which bacteria are exposed in the modern environment should be addressed alongside antibiotic use if we are to preserve antibiotics in the long term”
What are some of the “outside the box solutions” to antimicrobial resistance (AMR)?
- Transitioning to agroecological organic agriculture is one such a solution: Agroecology is increasingly, a viable and sustainable solution to food security, climate change mitigation, human health improvement and mitigation of AMR. Agroecological approaches discourage or minimize use of synthetic fertilizers and agrochemicals which include antibiotics and synthetic herbicides with antibiotic properties, like glyphosate: They instead promote the application of local, decentralized, farmer centered, ecological and biological methods of farming that use re-cycling of animal and plant material natural waste products, informed by time tested resilient, indigenous knowledge and practice. These approaches are validated by the latest scientific evidence as being superior to conventional industrial farming: Here are a few case studies from Brazil, Senegal and India, with findings and recommendationshttps://www.misereor.org/fileadmin//user_upload/misereor_org/Publications/englisch/synthesis-report-agroecology.pdf
- Agro-ecological (which includes organic farming) systems which are the future of sustainable agriculture and nutrition security, have also been found to be beneficial in preventing non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including cancers. Here is the some of the latest evidence showing that organic foods contribute to significant reduction in various cancers, especially non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, which is highly associated with use of the herbicide, glyphosate:(see previous articles in this series of blog articles): https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2707948
- In view of the evidence, what is the final word of advice as we complete the year 2018 and start the year 2019?
- GO ORGANIC: BUY, GROW and EAT ORGANIC FOODS…by so doing you will contribute to being part of the solution to four of the greatest threats to human existence: re: conserving biodiversity and reducing global warming; regenerating soil and improving soil fertility; improving plant, animal and human health AND delaying antimicrobial resistance (AMR).