WHO adopts new global strategy to fight drug-resistant diseases

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The World Health Organization (WHO) has adopted a new global strategy to fight drug-resistant diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, urinary tract infection and even HIV at the 68th World Health Assembly, a forum that serves as the agency's highest decision-making body.

It endorsed a global action plan to tackle anti-microbial resistance (AMR), including antibiotic resistance, which has emerged as big concern.

India, which assumed presidency of the assembly after 19 years, was represented by Union health minister JP Nadda, who played a key role in passing the resolution on AMR.

While the global plan presents a blueprint with specific actions and timelines for WHO, the 194 member countries of the organization, including India, will also have to frame a national action plan on AMR. The resolution asked countries to frame plans by May 2017 and align them with WHO's global strategy.

While all countries are struggling with the problem of rising drug resistance, India is primarily coping with antibiotic resistance which is posing an increasing threat to treating infectious diseases, as well as undermining many other advances in medicine.

Currently, over 700,000 deaths each year are attributed to drug resistance. In India, an additional two million lives can be lost by 2050 due to drug resistance.

For instance, while India accounts for the highest number of tuberculosis cases, it is also the hub of multi-drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis. Out of the estimated global annual incidence of 9 million tuberculosis cases, India accounts for 2.3 million.

WHO's global plan sets out five key objectives: improve awareness and understanding of anti-microbial resistance; strengthen surveillance and research; reduce incidence of infection; optimize use of anti-microbial medicines; and ensure sustainable investment in countering AMR

The UN General Assembly is also expected to hold a high-level segment on AMR in 2016 to further highlight the need for comprehensive implementation of the WHO plan.

The plan also covers use of anti-microbial medicines in animal health and agriculture, apart from human health. WHO will work with countries to support the development and implementation of their national plans, and report progress to the Health Assembly in 2017, the resolution said on the last day of the meeting in Geneva.