The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) as one of the leading global health threats of the near future, with superbugs (antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains) estimated to have killed 1.27 million people worldwide in 2019.
Controlling increasingly bulletproof superbugs that could kill tens of millions by mid-century requires containing and cleaning up environmental pollution, especially in waterways.
The term “superbug” refers to infectious disease-causing bacteria, viruses, parasites, and fungi that have developed resistance to standard medical treatments. Superbugs are antibiotic-resistant microorganisms that can cause severe illnesses such as pneumonia, UTI, and even skin infections.
The United Nations estimates that by 2050, AMR will be responsible for up to 10 million deaths annually. From shampoo to toothpaste, cow’s milk to wastewater, germ-boosting disinfectants, antiseptics, and antibiotics are practically ubiquitous.
According to a new report released, pollution is a major factor in the “development, transmission, and spread” of AMR, and immediate action to clean up the environment is warranted.
According to the UN Environment Programme’s report, “risks are increasing with increasing pollution and lack of management of sources of pollution, combined with AMR in clinical and hospital settings and agriculture.”
While antibiotic resistance occurs naturally, the overuse and improper use of antibiotics in humans, animals, and plants have exacerbated the problem. The infections they were created to treat may now be immune to antibiotics.
Specifically, the pharmaceutical and chemical manufacturing sectors, as well as agriculture and health care, were singled out in the UN report released on Tuesday as major contributors to environmental pollution.