New Delhi: On day one in Davos, NDTV’s Vishnu Som as a part of Banega Swasth India special interacts with global leader – Shyam Bishen, Head of Healthcare, World Economic Forum to understand how superbugs are posing a huge threat to the world’s health. Superbugs defined as a strain of bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi that develops a resistant to most of the antibiotics and other medications commonly used to treat the infections they cause, according to World Health Organization (WHO). It further states that this silent tsunami is making the world lose its ability to protect against infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and malaria and has been neglected for far too long.
Talking about the threat, Shyam Bishen told NDTV,
Right now superbugs are one of the biggest killers for human beings. Close to 1.3 million people, every year die from AMR, which is anti microbial resistant. And, we expect this number to be much higher as we move forward. WHO estimates that if we don’t do anything about this, by 2050, there will be 10 million deaths every year. That’s a huge number and a big cause of worry for the world.
Further highlighting the twin problem of losing lives and economic crisis, Shyam Bishen said,
Economic loss is also expected to be much higher, we are expecting it to be 100 trillion dollar.
Underlining the nasty culture of popping antibiotics like candy in India and how it is increasing the burden, Mr Bishen said,
This habit of popping antibiotics after antibiotics for anything to everything needs to stop. It is all a part of the problem. All of us working in the healthcare arena, especially the doctors have to do a better job. First of all, we should not be prescribing antibiotics where it is not required. Secondly, we need to educate patients that longer use of antibiotics will be bad for them as they will develop resistant against antibiotics and there will be higher mortality rate.
Mr Bishen then stressed that antibiotics is in our food chain as well, which is also a huge part of worry. He said,
There is an increase use of antibiotics in our agriculture, poultry and animals, which we eat. Approximately, 70 per cent use of antibiotics is done in these sectors. As a result, now, we are getting more and more antibiotics in our food chain, which is also making us anti microbial resistant.
Explaining why the world till now have not found a solution to deal with superbugs or developed a vaccine even after so much progress that has been made in the Pharma industry, Mr Bishen added,
There is a lack of research and that is due to incentives. This is a slow moving thing, it is not the pandemic that needs urgent attention and that is why governments and public health sector is moving really slow. Drug development is a long process and an expensive one, usually, when a drug or medicine is developed, Pharma companies spend a lot of money, so they are really interested in good returns and if they don’t get that they don’t take the process forward. There needs to be both pull and push incentives for this. Now, a lot of non-profit organisations are pushing for the research for superbugs. But, we need to do a lot more, we need to make sure governments are putting some funding behind it, we need grants, we need funding for R&Ds.
The Way Forward
The WHO states that the spread of superbugs cannot be stopped, nor it can be treated, but it can be reduced. It lists down the ways in which it can be done:
- Through good clinical practice
- Improvements in water, sanitation and hygiene
- Ensuring that medicines are used more prudently in both people and animals, through better diagnostics, better access to the right drugs, and better regulation of antibiotics
Mr Bishen signs off by saying that basic hygiene is of utmost importance, he added,
We don’t want to go back in those dark times, where there was no antibiotics and simple infections used to kill human beings like from Unitary Tract Infections. So, we need to make an effort to stop the spread of superbugs at all cost, the worrisome part is that they are increasing. Basic hygiene is absolutely critical in saving lives. It is a must, we saw the importance of maintaining good hygiene during COVID times. We must wash our hands at least for 30 to 60 seconds with an antibacterial soap or sanitise them. That’s the best way to avoid the contact of pathogens or viruses.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.