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Anti-microbial resistance -Mass-bathing in the Ganga

November 02, 2017
12 months

Why in news?

A government-commissioned study has reported that mass-bathing in the Ganga during pilgrimages might be contributing to anti-microbial resistance (AMR).

What is AMR?

  • Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of a microorganism like bacteria, viruses and some parasites to stop an antimicrobial from working against it .
  • The resistance reduces or eliminates the effectiveness of these drugs, chemicals, or other agents designed to cure or prevent infections.
  • Resultantly, standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.
  • Microbes resistant to multiple antimicrobials are called multidrug resistant (MDR) or sometimes 'superbugs'.

What are the findings of the study?

  • In 2014, India was the highest consumer of antibiotics, followed by China and the United States.
  • Resultantly, India has some of the highest antibiotic resistance rates among bacteria that commonly cause infections in the community and healthcare facilities.
  • The water and sediments were sampled at seven sites along the Ganga in different seasons.
  • The report highlights how the rivers and groundwater have been contaminated by drug-resistant bacteria.
  • And this is subsequently augmenting the vulnerability of people using that water.
  • It states that levels of resistance genes were found to be about 60 times greater during the pilgrimage months than at other times of the year.
  • Other than ‘cultural factors’ such as bathing, the drivers of AMR included excessive use of antibiotics in the livestock industry and unchecked discharge of effluents by the pharmaceutical industry.

How does it spread in water?

  • When antibiotics are used in humans or animals approximately 80 - 90% of the ingested antibiotics are not broken down.
  • They eventually pass through the body intact and enter the environment as waste.
  • Thus, they retain their ability to affect bacteria and promote antibiotic resistance even after they enter the soil or water as a waste product.
  • Any bacteria that acquire resistance genes have the ability to resist one or more antibiotics.
  • Bacteria can transfer this resistant genetic material, including genes encoding resistance to antibiotics.
  • Antimicrobials, particularly, antibiotics are called societal drugs as antibiotic resistance can pass from bacterium to bacterium.
  • Resultantly, the resistant bacterial infections can pass from person to person.
  • Thus, antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance can eventually affect an entire community.

What should be done?

  • Improving waste management can address the spread of resistance-genes at key pilgrimage sites
  • However, this is only part of the problem.
  • In spite of the challenge, too little work had been done so far to understand the major drivers of anti-microbial resistance.
  • The recent mapping exercise indicates that AMR research studies in India were of limited scope in all areas and needed a comprehensive focus.


Source: The Hindu

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