• R P Sharma


Since their discovery during the 20th century, antimicrobial agents (antibiotics and related medicinal drugs) have substantially reduced the threat posed by infectious diseases. The use of these “wonder drugs”, combined with improvements in sanitation, housing, and nutrition, and the advent of widespread immunization programmes, has led to a dramatic drop in deaths from diseases that were previously widespread, untreatable, and frequently fatal. Over the years, antimicrobials have saved the lives and eased the suffering of millions of people. By helping to bring many serious infectious diseases under control, these drugs hav also contributed to the major gains in life expectancy experienced during the latter part of the last century. These gains are now seriously jeopardized by another recent development: the emergence and spread of microbes that are resistant to cheap and effective first-choice, or “first- line” drugs. The bacterial infections which contribute most to human disease are also those in which emerging microbial resistance is most evident: diarrhoeal diseases, respiratory tract infections, meningitis, sexually transmitted infections, and hospital-acquired infections. Some important examples include penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae, vancomycin-resistant enterococci, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, multi-resistant salmonellae, and multi-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis. The development of resistance to drugs commonly used to treat malaria is of particular concern, as is the emerging resistance to anti-HIV drugs. Treatment, resu.lting in prolonged illness and greater risk of death, Treatment failures also lead to longer periods of infectivity, which increase the numbers of infected people moving in the community and thus expose the general population to the risk of contracting a resistant strain of infection. When infections become resistant to first-line antimicrobials, treatment has to be switched to second- or third-line drugs, which are nearly always much more expensive and sometimes more toxic as well, e.g. the drugs needed to treat multidrug-resistant forms of tuberculosis are over 100 times more expensive than the first-line drugs used to treat non-resistant forms. In many countries, the high cost of such replacement drugs is prohibitive, with the result that some diseases can no longer be treated in areas where resistance to first-line drugs is widespread. Most alarming of all are diseases where resistance is developing for virtually all currently available drugs, thus raising the spectre of a post- antibiotic era.


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How to Cite

Sharma RP. ANTIMICROBIAL RESISTANCE AND ITS GLOBAL SPREAD. Indian J Community Health [Internet]. 2010 Jun. 30 [cited 2024 Jul. 19];22(1):1-3. Available from:




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