We Need Global Response To Antibiotic Resistance Crisis
By Arvind M. Dhople, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Florida Tech // June 23, 2014
MORE JUDICIOUS USE OF ANTIBIOTICS IMPERATIVE
ABOVE VIDEO: CDC Director, Dr. Tom Frieden, highlights the CDC report that covers one of the most serious health threats we face today – antibiotic resistance. The fact that our antibiotics don’t work as well as they used to, or at all, against a growing number of infections is alarming. We risk a future where simple infections can turn deadly. Cutting this threat requires urgent and immediate collaboration among public health, clinical medicine, agriculture, industry, and policy makers.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Since the 1940s, antibiotics and similar drugs, together called antimicrobial agents, have been used to treat patients with infections, and have greatly reduced illness and death from infectious diseases. When prescribed and taken appropriately, the value of antimicrobial agents to combating complications and death from infections is prodigious. However, these drugs have been used so widely for so long, and often times inappropriately, that the infectious organisms the antibiotics are designed to kill have adapted to them and become resistant, making the drugs less effective.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website provides extensive education on the state of antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance, reporting that: “People infected with antimicrobial-resistant organisms are more likely to have longer, more expensive hospital stays, and may be more likely to die as a result of the infection.”
We are delighted to once again welcome Arvind M. Dhople, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Florida Tech as a guest columnist. His sage perspective on the progressive resistance of antibiotics as a global crisis even more significant than the global warming/climate change threat is spot on. With antimicrobial drug resistance occuring everywhere in the world and not limited to industrialized nations, Dr. Dhople calls the worldwide medical community to action to more aggressively address this crisis.
—Dr. Jim Palermo, Editor-in-Chief
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA–Growing resistance among pathogens to antibiotics and other drugs demands a coordinated global response on the same scale as efforts to address climate change. Without an international commitment to tackle the issue, the world faces a future in which simple infections that have been treatable for decades become deadly diseases.
Resistance to antibiotics (to combat bacterial infections) and antimicrobial drugs (to treat parasites, viruses and fungi) is spreading at an alarming rate. Treatment for many infectious diseases is now reliant on just one or two drugs.
It seems the growing threats of antimicrobial resistance is similar to that posed by climate change because it has a natural process exacerbated by human activity and because the actions of one country can have global ramifications. Yet the international response to this threat – caused by the overuse and misuse of antimicrobial drugs – has been feeble.
The creation of an independent body to oversee surveillance efforts and set strict evidence-based targets, to stem the loss of drug potency and speed the development of new therapies must be considered essential to stemming the tide of this dangerous healthcare crisis.
In the world without antibiotics, routine surgical procedures would become deadly. Treatment for cancer and diabetes, as well as organ transplants, would be impossible in their current form. Industrial agriculture would also suffer, owing to the increased use of antibiotics in animals as growth promoters.
We have needed to take action against the development of antimicrobial resistance for more than 20 years. Despite repeated warnings, the international response has been feeble, the World Health Organization has missed opportunities to provide leadership, and very little progress has been made.
The result has been the emergence of strains of infection, including tuberculosis and malaria, pneumonia and gonorrhea, that resist all known classes of drugs. We need a new independent body that will not only monitor the spread of antimicrobial resistance, but also drive and direct efforts to contain it.
The time has come to stop re-stating the problems of antimicrobial resistance and start taking action. We need independent, international leadership on this issue before the massive health gains that have been made since Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin are lost forever.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Arvind Dhople graduated from the University of Bombay and then joined Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health, first as a post- doctoral fellow and then Asst. Professor. In 1980, he joined Florida Tech as a Professor and Director of their Infectious Diseases Lab. His specialty is microbial biochemistry and he performed research in leprosy and tuberculosis. He is a Fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology and has published nearly 150 articles in peer-reviewed journals. He has also served as an advisor to the World Health Organization, National Institutes of Health, German Leprosy Relief Association, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Currently, he is Professor Emeritus at Florida Tech and a free-lance writer.