Marking an important step towards recognising and addressing the environmental dimension of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) launched a new collaborative project – “Priorities for the Environmental Dimension of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in India”.
A multi-faceted and complex global public health issue, AMR is recognized as a ‘One Health’ issue owing to its significant linkages with the human health, animals, and environment. While aspects addressing AMR from the human health perspective have received much attention, focus on the environmental dimensions of AMR has been limited. This includes the effects of discharging antibiotics and other antimicrobial compounds, such as disinfectants and heavy metals, into natural environments which has the potential to drive the evolution of resistant bacteria.
strengthen environmental aspects
The project aims to strengthen environmental aspects of national and state level AMR strategies and action plans. It will also undertake secondary research and stakeholder consultations to enhance understanding of the environmental dimension of AMR in the country. As part of the project, outreach activities targeting environmental authorities and ministries at the regional and state level in India are planned.
UNEP is supporting this project in India under the larger framework of Environment and Health, led by the Inter-Ministerial Steering Group on Environment and Health (EH), co-chaired by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. The ICMR-National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases (NICED), which is the Anti-Microbial Resistance Hub of ICMR since 2019, will implement this project.
ICMR-NICED Director Dr. Shanta Dutta said that NICED would generate information on environmental risk factors for developing AMR, environmental spread of AMR and strategies for its containment. This will provide guidance on collective action and integration of this issue in policy and decision-making, the director added.
significant and historic
Meanwhile, UNEP India Country head Atul Bagai pointed out that this pact was significant and historic as the environmental dimension of the AMR is going to be taken up at the country level in India. The work done will feed into the Ministry of Health’s National Action Plan on AMR, Bagai said.
Meanwhile, ECD, ICMR head Dr Samiran Panda said that the term ‘One Health’ was very vast with many interfaces. The demand on NICED which is a national institute and on India is huge – as it is also for other countries – to find ways to address issues around ‘One Health’, which is intricately linked with antimicrobial resistance, panda said.
In December 2017, the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) recognised that AMR is an increasing threat to global health, food, security and sustainable development, and underlined the need to further understand the role of environment in the development and spread of AMR. UNEP is working to provide evidence that can inform national and global strategies.