Tag Archives: infectious diseases

Anthropogenic Drivers of Emerging Infectious Diseases

The Ebola crisis in West Africa highlighted critical deficiencies in global health infrastructure, as well as the impact of disease outbreaks to developing economies. The recent emergence of other diseases, including SARS, H7N9 and Marburg virus, has been linked to human practices, many which also correlate with the leading drivers of biodiversity loss. The following science brief provides an overview of findings to support a more proactive, integrated and preventive approaches to disease emergence, which emphasize the need for a more coherent set of sustainable development goals and targets that better reflect the interconnected nature of the tripartite health, conservation and development challenges that we face.

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Antibiotic resistance (ABR) – no sustainability without antibiotics

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a missing topic in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One can visualize easily terrifying consequences on mankind by not attributing this issue global attention it deserves. It threatens to undermine the effectiveness of modern medicine and with everrising number of resistant bacterial strains (WHO, 2014; CDC 2013) it could mean the undoing of much of the progress made under the MDGs. Resistance to antimicrobial drugs already causes an estimated 700 000 deaths annually and – without effective action – is predicted to cause 10 million deaths annually and cost up to US $ 100 trillion by 2050 (Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, 2014). Thus it is not only a public health issue but it is also critical to the global development progress.

The SDGs should emphasize antimicrobial resistance as a threat to global health that must be overcome. As an example, several of the planned targets in the health-dedicated goal three from the SDGs current list will be impossible to achieve without effective antimicrobials, e.g. maternal mortality ratio, newborn and under-five children mortality , communicable diseases epidemics, and a significant part of NCDs (Laxminarayan et al., 2013). Health systems will not be sustainable without effective antimicrobials, specifically antibiotics (Tomson & Vlad, 2014).

Analogies with other fundamental global concerns such as climate change can help us understand the actual scope and irreversible consequences man can face if radical action is not taken (Laxminarayan et al., 2013). The golden era of effective antibiotics is today history and the world has to deliver one holistic solution (Nathan & Cars, 2014).

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Towards sustainable tackling of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases

The recent rate, spate and global dimension of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) is quite alarming and presents the human race with abundant challenges, including the need to propose proportionate research, responses, strategies and policies. An understanding of the multifaceted social and ecological settings in which infectious diseases occur is also desirable. Over the years, the human race has been confronted with EIDs including Nipah virus, West Nile virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, severe acute respiratory syndrome, and dengue hemorrhagic fever (Weiss, 2008). In July 2003, the World Health Organization declared that the global outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) had been contained; less than six months later, in December of 2003, an even greater threat–the avian influenza H5N1 virus–emerged (WHO, 2005). Recently came Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS), which has spread quite rapidly from the Middle East (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Lebanon, Qatar, Jordan, Yemen, Kuwait and Iran) to North Africa (Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria), Asia (Malaysia, Philippines), and Europe (United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Greece, and Italy). The first case was diagnosed in the United States on May 2nd 2014 (Adeyemo, O.K. 2014). The ongoing Ebola virus disease which was first detected in March in West Africa is the latest in the epidemic of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.

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Swamping our defences: the rising tide of antibiotic resistance

Several health authorities have recently issued stark warnings that we are on the threshold of a post-antibiotic era (CMO, 2011; CDC, 2013; WHO, 2014). The loss of these antibiotic drugs would be a severe public health setback, taking
humanity back to a time when patients succumbed from infections now routinely treated. Antibiotic resistance also puts at risk key attainments of modern medicine, such as intensive care medicine, transplant surgery and chemotherapy for cancer, which are all reliant on antibiotics. Antibiotic resistant infections already exact a severe toll: an estimated 23,000 persons die from resistant bacterial infections in the United States, with associated treatment costs of US$20 billion (CDC, 2013). A high percentage of bacteria that cause common infections – such as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and bloodstream infections – show resistance in all areas of the world (WHO, 2014).

Despite the documentation of the rapid rise of resistant bacterial strains worldwide, the full extent of the problem has arguably not been fully recognized and understood by policy makers, the health establishment, and the public. To date, this emerging global healthcare crisis has received less attention than other threats, such as HIV/AIDS. Crucially, maintaining antibiotics in the arsenal of modern medicine will depend on the actions of many actors, from parents not demanding antibiotics for their children’s routine coughs, to changes in livestock raising, and re-focussing drug development.

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