World leaders and experts have called for global action to reduce antimicrobial pollution, recognising this as critical to combating rising levels of drug resistance and protecting the environment.
World Health Organisation (WHO) stated in a Wednesday statement that the Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance called on all countries to reduce the amount of antimicrobial waste entering the environment.
“This includes researching and implementing measures to safely dispose of antimicrobial waste from food, human health and animal health systems, and manufacturing facilities,’’ WHO said in a statement.
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 Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance includes heads of state, government ministers, and leaders from private sector and civil society.
The group was established in November 2020 to accelerate global political momentum, leadership and action on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and is co-chaired by Their Excellencies Mia Amor Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, and Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh.
The Global Leaders Group’s call to action requires all countries to improve measures for the management and disposal of antimicrobial-containing waste and runoff from manufacturing sites, farms, hospitals and other sources.
“Antimicrobials given to humans, animals and plants are entering the environment and water sources (including drinking water sources) via wastewater, waste, run-off and sewage and through this spreading drug-resistant organisms and antimicrobial resistance.
“This could fuel a rise in the emergence and spread of ‘superbugs’ that are resistant to several types of antimicrobial drugs. It could also harm organisms in the environment.
“Reducing the amount of antimicrobial pollution entering the environment is crucial to conserving the effectiveness of antimicrobial medicines.’’
The Global Leaders Group calls on 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.
According to WHO, drug-resistant diseases contribute to nearly five million deaths every year, noting that urgent action is needed to curb the rise and spread of antimicrobial resistance across all countries.
It stated that 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.’’
The statement quoted Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, co-chair of the Global Leader Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, as saying, “The connections between antimicrobial resistance, environmental health and the climate crisis are becoming increasingly stark.
“We must act now to protect the environment, and people everywhere, from the damaging effects of antimicrobial pollution.’’