New Delhi, April 19: School children across India will receive lessons on antibiotics as part of a new action plan announced by the central government today that pledges coordinated efforts by multiple government departments to curb the emergence of life-threatening antibiotic-resistant microbes.
The Union health ministry today released a "National Action Plan to combat Antimicrobial Resistance," a 56-page document which outlines the activities that range from improving infection control, surveillance, and antibiotic prescription practices across human and animal health sectors as the keys to curbing resistance.
The plan is intended to address concerns that the abuse of antibiotics by doctors, patients, healthcare institutions, farmers and veterinary specialists has contributed to the rise of drug-resistant microbes that are hard to treat with the existing arsenal of antibiotics.
"We are now ready with a blueprint (for action) that meets global expectations," health minister Jagat Prakash Nadda said at a multi-ministerial meeting. "The challenge is now in (ensuring) its efficient implementation through a coordinated approach at all levels of use of antibiotics."
Nadda and other Union ministers in charge of consumer affairs and environment signed a "Delhi Declaration" aimed at collective action to contain antimicrobial resistance.
In line with global initiatives, India's plan has the objectives of "enhancing awareness, strengthening surveillance, improving rational use of antibiotics, reducing infections," Nadda said.
The plan calls on the Central Board of School Education and state school boards to introduce the concept of antimicrobial resistance and the appropriate use of antibiotics into school curriculum.
It has also proposed nationwide surveillance mechanisms to study the use of antibiotics in humans, animals, and agriculture and food sector and track antimicrobial resistance in food and the environment.
The plan has pledged "strategic interventions and activities" aimed at increasing awareness of appropriate use of antibiotics by medical practitioners and consumers. It has outlined special campaigns "targeted at consumers and community, including schools and colleges," that highlight the public health risks of the inappropriate use of antibiotics.
Earlier this month, microbiologists at the National Institute of Oceanography regional centre in Mumbai had reported that 95 per cent of samples of faecal bacteria they had sampled from popular beaches in Mumbai were resistant to common antibiotics.