Choki Wangmo

Themed “United to preserve antimicrobials’, world antimicrobial awareness week which ended yesterday was observed in Thimphu. The week was used to raise awareness of the health risks posed by the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and to limit the emergence and spread of resistance.

AMR is a phenomenon in which once bacteria becomes resistant, and the antimicrobials are no longer effective and can no longer help to control or treat diseases.

According to the representative of World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Dr Pasang Tshering, about 700,000 human deaths in the world are attributed to (AMR) and it may top 10 million by 2050 if it is not addressed.

Due to the porous border and close proximity to the Indian market where antimicrobials make up 50 percent of the sales, the risk of AMR in Bhutan is also increasing over the years.

Ngawang Dema with the Drug Regulatory Authority (DRA), said that for the fiscal year 2019-2020, 16 million (M) units of antibiotics are imported—16.5 M units by the government and 55,256 units by retail pharmacies.

Antibiotics are considered a ‘high-risk category’ for testing in Bhutan.

Twenty antimicrobials are registered with DRA including antibiotics and antifungals.

Pasang Tshering said that AMR development is caused due to increasing global demand for animal protein, intensification of animal production, and its use as antimicrobial growth promoters without risk analysis.

In the Asia-pacific, the highest antimicrobial used in animals are tetracyclines, penicillins, polypeptides, and macrolides.

Antibacterial agents, including antibiotics, used rationally can save millions of lives, but the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials in animals, humans, or plants is a major factor driving the emergence and development of AMR.

Dr NK Thapa with the livestock department said that globally antimicrobials for livestock were used since the early 1950s for treatment, prevention, and faster growth.

However, AMR can be transmitted to human through resistance, spread, and exposure. “It is, therefore, a global human and animal health concern,” he said.

AMR is a major threat to human development and the fight against infectious diseases. It endangers animal health and welfare, and food production.

Microbiologist Dr Tshokey, said that as agriculturalists controlling animal feeds containing antibiotics, rational use of antibiotics and proper monitoring could protect the public health by ensuring a safe food supply as well as animal and plant health.

AMR is a growing threat to public health but it is equally crucial in preserving the efficacy of antimicrobials for animal health, animal welfare, food security, and public health, he said.

Currently, the country doesn’t have equipped laboratory for testing a wide range of products and their contaminants.