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India's addiction to antibiotics can be catastrophic

New Delhi: India is the world antibiotics capital according to a recent report on the State of the World's Antibiotics. Indians consume a massive 13 billion antibiotics annually compared to 10 billion in China and
India TV News Desk September 17, 2015 19:22 IST
India TV News Desk

New Delhi: India is the world antibiotics capital according to a recent report on the State of the World's Antibiotics. Indians consume a massive 13 billion antibiotics annually compared to 10 billion in China and 7 billion in the US.

But this is not exactly something for us to be proud about. With more and more Indians now popping pills even for minor infections, bacteria are able to develop resistance to the antibiotics more easily.

A shocking 57% of samples of the dangerous bacteria Klebsiella pneumoniae were found to be resistant in India compared to almost zero just six years earlier. In contrast, only 5% of samples were resistant in Europe. Similarly, the resistance of Escherichia coli is also the highest in India.

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As the co-author of the report, Ramanan Laxminarayan, noted, “No matter how many new drugs come out, if we continue to misuse them, they might as well have never been discovered.”

Even if new antibiotics can be developed, they tend to be significantly more expensive. “When it comes to antibiotic-resistant infections, the rich pay with their wallets and the poor pay with their lives,” said Laxminarayan.

The report suggests various strategies to address the problem including educating policymakers/public and disincentivising the overuse of antibiotics. But it's essential that these steps be taken immediately since we are already running out of time.  

A paper prepared for the British government even suggests that rising antibiotics resistance could lead to a social and economic apocalypse with people barricading themselves to avoid contact with others. That may seem like a scenario straight out of a movie but it's a realistic outcome if no action is taken.