The Antibiotic Dilemma: Charting Humanity's Next Course of Action

Discover the Global Action Plan (GAP) and The Global Antimicrobial Resistance and Use Surveillance System (GLASS) in the fight against AMR.
A poster attached to a curbside mailbox offering advice to World War II servicemen (Wikimedia Commons)
A poster attached to a curbside mailbox offering advice to World War II servicemen (Wikimedia Commons)

Amidst World War II, soldiers suffered from the burden of Clap (gonorrhoea). Nonetheless, the advent of penicillin emerged as a saviour. Subsequently, the untimely passing of its discoverer, Sir Alexander Fleming, occurred years later, and his remains were cremated and interred. Nonetheless, penicillin's persistently advanced, making remarkable strides in the battle against bacterial infections.

The twentieth century witnessed the emergence of groundbreaking antibiotics, including Erythromycin, Vancomycin, Streptomycin, and Gentamicin. These antibiotics are still in use today, although their effectiveness has been declining due to the emergence of resistance.

According to the newly launched Global Antimicrobial Surveillance System (GLASS) by the World Health Organization (WHO), antibiotic resistance is prevalent among approximately 500,000 individuals with suspected bacterial infections across 22 countries.

The current scenario reveals a daunting reality: existing antibiotics are encountering increasing difficulty in effectively halting or preventing the growth of microbial infections. The rise of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) stems from various factors, including the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in human healthcare, their irrational utilization as growth promoters in livestock, and a concerning decline in the development of new antibiotics.

Although new antibiotics are being developed, it is anticipated that they will not be efficacious against the most perilous strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Therefore, what is the next course of action for humanity?

Sir Alexander Fleming (Wikimedia Commons)
Sir Alexander Fleming (Wikimedia Commons)

Currently, there is the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (GAP) and The Global Antimicrobial Resistance and Use Surveillance System (GLASS). GAP was established in 2015 during the World Health Assembly, and endorsed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

GAP aims to address AMR by encouraging countries to develop and implement multisectoral national action plans, and build upon previous global efforts to contain AMR, such as the global strategy developed in 2001 to contain Antimicrobial Resistance by the WHO.

Widespread use of antibiotics promotes the spread of antibiotic resistance. Smart use of antibiotics is the key to controlling its spread.

A. P. J Abdulkalam

GLASS, on the other hand, was launched to improve understanding of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and inform strategies. GLASS collects and analyses data on AMR in humans, antimicrobial use, the food chain, and the environment in a standardized way. Overall, GLASS aims to fill knowledge gaps and support global efforts to combat AMR.

While it is too early to be overly optimistic about the concept of GLASS and GAP. Time is the ultimate judge. Till then, we can only speculate.

A poster attached to a curbside mailbox offering advice to World War II servicemen (Wikimedia Commons)
Antibiotics and Resistance ‘Two-Way Street’ between Animals & Humans
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