World Leaders, Experts Call For Action To Prevent Anti-microbial Pollution

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World leaders and experts today called for global action to reduce anti-microbial pollution and recognised it as critical to combatting rising levels of drug resistance and protecting the environment.

The Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance today called on all countries to reduce the amount of anti-microbial wastes entering the environment. This includes researching and implementing measures to safely dispose of anti-microbial waste from food, human health and animal health systems, as well as manufacturing facilities.

The call comes ahead of the UN Environment Assembly which takes place in Nairobi and online from February 28 to March 2, 2022, where countries will discuss the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.

The group includes heads of state, government ministers and leaders from the private sector and civil societies. The group was established in November 2020 to accelerate global political momentum, leadership and action on anti-microbial resistance (AMR) and is co-chaired by Prime Minister of Barbados, Her Excellency Mia Amor Mottley and that of Bangladesh, His Excellency Sheikh Hasina.

The group called for all countries to improve measures for the management and disposal of anti-microbial-containing waste and run-off from manufacturing sites, farms, hospitals and other sources.

Anti-microbials given to humans, animals and plants are entering the environment and water sources (including drinking water sources) via wastewater, waste, run-off and sewage spread drug-resistant organisms and anti-microbial resistance.

This could fuel a rise in the emergence and spread of ‘superbugs’ that are resistant to several types of anti-microbial drugs and harm organisms in the environment.

Reducing the amount of anti-microbial pollution entering the environment is crucial to conserving the effectiveness of antimicrobial medicines

The group called for all countries to develop and implement regulations and standards to better monitor and control the distribution and release of antimicrobials and drug-resistant organisms into the environment.

Other key actions include developing national antimicrobial manufacturing pollution standards to better control and monitor antimicrobial pollution; Enforcing laws and policies to reduce or eliminate antimicrobial use that is not under the guidance of a trained healthcare provider and implementing standards to treat and manage discharge from food-animal farms, aquaculture farms and crop fields.

“Inaction will have dire consequences for human, animal, plant and environmental health.

“Anti-microbial drugs, including antibiotics, antifungals and antiparasitics, are used in human and veterinary medicine all over the world. They are used to treat and prevent diseases in humans and animals, and sometimes in food production to promote growth in healthy animals. Anti-microbial pesticides are also used in agriculture to treat and prevent diseases in plants.

“Current antimicrobial drug usage in humans, animals and plants is leading to a concerning rise in drug resistance and making infections harder to treat.

“Drug-resistant microbes and disease-causing pathogens can pass between humans, animals, plants and food, and in the environment.

“The climate crisis may also be contributing to a rise in antimicrobial resistance.

“Drug-resistant diseases contribute to nearly 5 million deaths every year. Urgent action is needed to curb the rise and spread of antimicrobial resistance across all countries. Without action, the world is rapidly approaching a tipping point where the antimicrobials needed to treat infections in humans, animals and plants will no longer be effective.

“The impact on local and global health systems, economies, food security and food systems will be devastating,” a statement from the group said.

“The connections between antimicrobial resistance, environmental health and the climate crisis are becoming increasingly stark.” said co-chair of the group Mottley. “We must act now to protect the environment, and people everywhere, from the damaging effects of antimicrobial pollution.’’

Understanding and managing global antimicrobial pollution should be a priority for all countries

While the exact scale of global antimicrobial pollution is unknown, evidence indicates that it could have significant impacts on antimicrobial resistance. For example, multi-drug resistant bacteria are already prevalent in marine waters and sediments close to aquaculture, industrial and municipal discharges.

People in all countries can play a role by ensuring they dispose of expired and unused medicines correctly, the statement said further.

Investors can also contribute by investing in the research and development of cost-effective and greener waste management technologies.

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