"Immediate action is needed to stop the world from heading towards pre-antibiotic era in which all achievements made in prevention and control of communicable diseases will be reversed. Common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades may once again kill millions. Resistance to antibiotics will make complex surgeries and management of several chronic illnesses like cancer, extremely difficult," Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director of WHO South-East Asia Region, said at a regional meeting in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste.
Already, without effective antimicrobial medicines, a number of common infections such as hospital acquired ventilator associated pneumonias, urinary tract infections; diarrhea, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, malaria etc. are becoming harder to treat. The problem is compounding, and unless we act now, the consequences might be irreversible, Dr Khetrapal Singh said.
A recent forecast of the potential human and economic cost estimates 10 million deaths per year globally and 2 to 3.5 percent less global gross domestic product by 2050 if antimicrobial resistance goes unchecked. Reduced productivity from persisting illness, and its cost of treatment, add to the economic loss.
The Regional Director was addressing health ministers and senior health ministry officials from the 11 Member countries of WHO South-East Asia Region, at the Sixty-eighth meeting of the Regional Committee which meets annually to discuss health priorities and health agenda for the Region.
Dr Khetrapal Singh said comprehensive and integrated national action plans are needed to respond to antimicrobial resistance. Countries need to strengthen monitoring of the extent and cause of antibiotic resistance, improve infection control in hospitals and regulate and promote appropriate use of medicines.