Antibiotic Resistance in India

A recent news article from Times of India discusses the dire effects of antibiotic overuse on public health in India. Although we always discuss this problem in terms of what we see in the US, it’s important to realize that antibiotic resistance is a problem everywhere. According to the article, the top three antibiotic using nations are India, China, and the US (highest to lowest use respectively). This figure is based on pills only, so it’s not even considering antimicrobials in consumer products. In the US antibiotic misuse can mostly be traced to livestock and incorrect prescription of pills. However, in countries like India and China, where disease is devastating so many people and antibiotics seem like a godsend, it would be hard to reverse the harm already done. One of the infographics in the article shows percentages of increase in antibiotic use between 2000 and 2010 in several countries. The highest is in South Africa, where antibiotic use increased by 219%! Granted, a lot of that is going to be for curing very sick people and saving lives. But it’s very easy to go overboard with antibiotics without thinking about the consequences of resistance. India, for instance, has strains of Klebsiella that are resistant to Cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones, aminoglycosides, and recently Carbapenems (a last-resort drug for infections caused by this pathogen). With antibiotic use increasing, so will resistant pathogens that we will only be hopeless to stop unless better stewardship is practiced. Hopefully news articles such as the one in Times of India can disseminate this information before the problem of antibiotic resistance gets unmanageable.

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Alex Alexiev

Alex Alexiev is a recent UC Davis graduate with a BS in microbiology working in Jonathan Eisen’s lab on aquariums as part of the microbiology of the built environment.