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Antimicrobial Resistance Emerges as a Slow Pandemic and the Biggest Threat to Global Health, Warn Speakers of Amrita University’s ALARM 2021 International Colloquium

Mumbai : Antimicrobial resistance, the ability of microorganisms to defeat antibiotics, is a ‘slow pandemic’, and is one of the biggest threats to global health, food security, and development. There is an urgent need to create awareness among the public about the need for following hygiene practices, and avoiding misuse of antibiotics to contain this growing medical challenge, urged speakers of Amrita Legion of Antimicrobial Resistance Management (ALARM) 2021, a three-day international colloquium on antimicrobial resistance, held virtually, between November 19-21, 2021. Amrita School of Biotechnology of Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham organized the event.

The speakers pointed out that the antimicrobial resistance occurs naturally, when pathogens change over time. However, misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process. As a result, treating infections is becoming increasingly harder. Increased medical costs, longer hospital stays, and higher rates of mortality are some of the other fallouts of growing antimicrobial resistance. 

ALARM 2021, was organized by the Amrita School of Biotechnology to coincide with WHO’s World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, observed annually during November 18-24.  This International event comprised of invited scientific talks by renowned experts around the world as well as student competitions centred around AMR.  The third day of this International event was focused on bicycle rallies, which were organized by the youth wing of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (AYUDH), across the country in several Indian cities including Bengaluru, Delhi NCR, Hyderabad, and Mysuru, as well as in cities across Europe and North America to create awareness about antimicrobial resistance.

Dr. Bipin Nair, Dean, Amrita School of Biotechnology, in his welcome address emphasized the need for adopting ‘One Health’, a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach, which envisages the health of not only people but also animals, plants, and the shared environment. Delivering his keynote address, Dr. Victor Nizet, University of California, UC San Diego School of Medicine, said that antimicrobial resistance represents a complex global problem, which needs innovative and effective remedies as well as collective action through international cooperation.

In his special address, Dr. Vishwa Mohan Katoch, former Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research, emphasized the need to shape regulatory policies in the healthcare industry to tackle antimicrobial resistance. He said that there are several socio-economic and cultural factors involved making the fight against antimicrobial resistance much more challenging. He added that doctors must exercise caution and discretion while prescribing antibiotics and help combat this problem.

Dr. Anand Anandkumar, CEO, Bugworks Research, Bengaluru, said that antimicrobial resistance is like a slow pandemic. It is also one of the biggest health threats that humanity faces. India is at the epicentre of this health crisis and will be a very important region to provide solutions to this global crisis.

Mr. Pranav, and Ms. Apurva Johri, founders of Vitalis Phage Therapy, talked about the effectiveness of using phages, types of viruses that infect bacteria, in treating diseases that do not respond to antibiotics. They said that colloquiums such as ALARM can help doctors, clinicians, researchers, and policy makers gain an understanding of and sensitivity to the problem of antibiotic resistance, which is going to be the biggest medical challenge in the coming decades. 

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