Recently, Ministry of health has launched ‘National programme for AMR Containment’ in 2012-2017, and one of the key activities initiated under the programme is AMR surveillance with a network of ten laboratories across the country. Currently, the National programme for Containment of AMR is generating AMR data for common bacterial pathogens from various surveillance network sites across the country. The data generated from these surveillance sites shall be useful to understand the magnitude and trend of drug resistance and identify the emergence of resistance, and will enable to accordingly update the treatment guidelines.
Infections caused by microorganisms have threatened human life since time immemorial. During the pre-antibiotic era, these have been a major concern for the high morbidity and mortality in humans. Some of the virulent organisms with the potential to spread infection from one infected person to another at a very rapid rate may cause worldwide pandemics, epidemics or outbreaks. With the discovery of the first antibiotic, “the magic bullet” Penicillin in the year 1943, patients could be effectively cured of many life-threatening infections. This gave a huge relief to the medical practitioners.
Next three decades saw the development and discovery of a wide variety of antimicrobial agents. Subsequently, the pace of discovery of newer molecules declined from 1970 to 1987. It has reached a “discovery void” level from 1987 onwards up till now. This is the post-antibiotic era in which the medical practitioners have to treat and manage all types of infections with equal or greater efficiency.
Spontaneous natural development of antimicrobial resistance in the microorganisms in nature is a slow process. However, the frequent and inappropriate use of a newly discovered antimicrobial drug leads to the development of altered mechanisms in the pathophysiology of the concerned microbes as a survival strategy. Such antibiotic selection pressure kills the susceptible microbes and helps in selective replication of drug resistant bacteria.
These resistant bacteria already existed in the population along with the susceptible ones or susceptible bacteria acquired resistance during antimicrobial treatment. Ultimately, such resistant bacteria multiply abundantly and entirely replace the susceptible bacterial population. This results in treatment failure or ineffective management of such infected patients. Antimicrobial resistance has been observed and reported with practically all the newly discovered antimicrobial molecules till date. Antimicrobial resistance makes the treatment of patients difficult, costly and sometimes impossible. Emergence of antimicrobial resistance in pathogens has become a matter of great public health concern.
Antimicrobial resistance is well recognised as a global threat to human health. Infections caused by antimicrobial-resistant micro-organisms in hospitals are associated with increased morbidity, mortality and healthcare costs. Resistance has emerged even to newer and more potent antimicrobial agents like carbapenems. Selection and spread of resistant microorganisms in the presence of antimicrobials is facilitated by:
Irrational use of drugs
Misuse of drugs
Antimicrobial resistance is closely linked to inappropriate antimicrobial use. It is estimated that 50% or more of hospital antimicrobial use is inappropriate. There is a need for increased education and awareness about antimicrobial resistance among the public and health-care professionals. One needs to develop and improve the surveillance system for antimicrobial resistance and infectious diseases in general, particularly through improved linkage of data. Nothing will work unless we improve diagnostic testing to ensure more tailored interventions and respond to the opportunities afforded by advances in genomic technologies and point of care testing. Since ‘post antibiotic era’ is reported to be “discovery void”; antimicrobial resistance is considered to be the most serious health threats especially for the common infections like sepsis, diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infection, gonorrhea,malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, influenza.
Presently, carbapenem resistance is reported worldwide in more than 50% of strains of Klebsiella pneumoniae causing health care associated infections like pneumonia, blood stream infections, infections in the newborn and intensive care units. More than 50% of Escherichia coli strains causing urinary tract infections are reported worldwide to be resistant to fluoroquinolones. Similarly, patients suffering from gonorrhea are reported to be resistant to the last resort of antibiotics – third generation cephalosporins. High mortality (64%) was seen among patients infected with Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Over all, the antimicrobial resistance is associated with higher mortality rate, longer hospital stay, delayed recuperation and long term disability.
Similar observations on the emergence of antimicrobial resistance in gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria are reported also from India. The resistance range varies widely depending on the type of health care setting and the geographical location, availability of antimicrobials in hospitals and over the counter, prescribing habits of treating clinicians coming from different
streams of medicine like allopathy, homeopathy, ayurvedic or quacks. The drug resistance has been reported to develop in a microbial population to an antibiotic molecule following its improper and irrational use. To combat the problem of ineffective management of infections and their complications caused by drug resistant microorganisms, it is imperative to report such
problems and generate national data at all levels of healthcare settings thus leading to a better tracking and monitoring system in the country.
The published reports in the country reveal an increasing trend of drug resistance in common diseases of public health importance i.e.
- Cholera: showing high level of resistance to commonly used antimicrobials e.g. Furazolidone (60-80%),Cotriamoxazole (60-80%) and Nalidixic Acid (80-90%),
- Enteric fever: Chloramphenicol, Ampicillin, Cotriamoxazole (30-50%), Fluoroquinolones (up to 30%),
- Meningococcal infections: Cotriamoxazole, Ciprofloxacin and Tetracycline (50-100%),
- Gonococcal infections: Penicillin (50-80%), Ciprofloxacin (20-80%).
Resistance is also seen in Meningococcal infections, malaria, leprosy, kala-azar, TB, & HIV. Recently, NDM-1 positive bacteria have also been reported.
Factors responsible for emergence of antimicrobial resistance could be widespread use and availability of practically all the antimicrobials over the counter for human, animal and industrial consumption.
There are definite policies/guidelines for appropriate use of antimicrobials at national level in specific national health programmes (e.g. RNTCP, National AIDS Control Programme,National Malaria Control Programme etc.)