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  • Experts Call for Unified Data Systems and SoPs for AMR Surveillance in India

    Published on April 17, 2024

     New Delhi :  During a workshop hosted by Ashoka University on April 10th, experts from organisations including Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), World Health Organisation (WHO), National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), and partners of Alliance for Pathogen Surveillance and Innovation (APSI), among others, highlighted the imminent need for Unified Data Systems and Standard Operating Procedures (SoPs) for surveillance of Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) in India. The workshop brought together experts, researchers, policymakers, and stakeholders from diverse sectors to deliberate on the multifaceted dimensions of the impact of AMR on One Health and develop actionable strategies to combat its escalation.

    Today, India requires precise estimates of the overall prevalence of AMR; it is widely believed to have one of the largest burdens of drug-resistant pathogens in the world. In its Annual Report 2022, ICMR estimated that abuse of antimicrobials, such as antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals, has led to a sustained increase in the prevalence of AMR in the country.

    “AMR is a global threat that requires people who have historically not worked together to cooperate and work towards a common goal. This goes beyond simple interdisciplinary to cross-sectoral, as discussed in the workshop, and the hope is that more such platforms will emerge” said Prof. Anurag Agrawal, Dean, Biosciences at Trivedi School of Biosciences, Ashoka University.

    The workshop titled, “Environmental Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR): Strategies and Implications,” was part of an outreach activity by APSI, a multi-city consortium to develop advanced pathogen surveillance, having public and private institutions such as Ashoka University as its members.

    “The APSI consortium is a unique initiative involving public and private academia, public and private hospitals, R&D labs, and government departments trying to address the AMR problem in four different regions of the country,” said Prof. L.S. Shashidhara, Director of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bengaluru. “The consortium is working with a vision that the data generated and the outcome of its efforts will provide additional evidence to frame public health policies and strategies at the national and state levels”, he added.

    Some of the prominent attendees were – Dr Kamini Walia, Senior Scientist at ICMR; Dr Anuj Sharma, NPO – Technical focal point for AMR, Labs and IPC, WHO; Dr Rakesh Mishra, Director, Tata Institute of Genetics Society; Dr (Brig.) Rakesh Kumar Gupta, Director, Government Institute of Medical Sciences (GIMS), among others. The event was also attended by scientists from CSIR-NCL, CSIR-CCMB & CSIR-IGIB, few clinical partners of Ashoka University, representatives from funding bodies and students and professors of colleges in Delhi-NCR.

    During a panel discussion, integrating surveillance data into healthcare and environmental systems emerged as a crucial recommendation for better decision-making and policy development. Addressing challenges in real-time AMR surveillance, like data sharing and operator training, was a key focus. Additionally, there was an emphasis on digital systems to empower stakeholders, especially research labs, by ensuring smooth data generation and proper credit allocation.

    Researchers working with the APSI talked about the standard methods they have developed for the surveillance of AMR in wastewater, milk samples as well as clinics. They presented the challenges faced and data obtained during the last year of surveillance. Results showed widespread occurrence of antibiotic resistance-causing genes in all the environments tested. The way forward was pointed as correlating these findings with the AMR in the clinics to increase the predictive power of environmental surveillance.

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