In a bid to fight drug resistance and tackle rheumatic heart disease, the Government of India is planning a revival of penicillin.
- Penicillin, discovered in 1928 by Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming, is one of the oldest antibiotics and in many western countries still remains the first antibiotic. Not many organisms have developed resistance to it yet.
- In India it has almost gone out of the market because of price control. The prices were kept so low that manufacturers stopped making the drug.
- The government is now planning to procure penicillin centrally for three years and give it to all children between 5-15 years who have a sore throat, at least once.
- The drug will be dispensed through primary health centres or administered by ASHAs.
- Government is looking at a plan to deal with rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease load and is trying to revive penicillin availability because it is the cheapest option for rheumatic fever treatment.
- Rheumatic fever is an inflammatory disease that can develop when strep throat or scarlet fever isn't properly treated.
- Rheumatic fever is endemic in India and remains one of the major causes of cardiovascular disease, accounting for nearly 25-45% of acquired heart disease.
- It often goes undiagnosed and leads to many maternal deaths at the time of childbirth.
- The term superbug is a nonspecific word that is used to describe any organism that is resistant to at least one or more commonly used antibiotics.
- The most common bacteria described as superbugs are the following:
- MRSA (Staphylococcus aureus strains resistant to multiple antibiotics)
- VRE (Enterococcus species resistant to the antibiotic vancomycin)
- PRSP (Streptococcus pneumoniae strains resistant to penicillin)
- ESBL (Escherichia coli and similar bacteria that are resistant to a certain category of antibiotics, such as cephalosporins)
- CRE (Escherichia coli and similar bacteria that are resistant to the carbapenem antibiotics, which are often used as a last resort for ESBL and other resistant bacteria)
Government Policies to fight antimicrobial resistance
- National Policy for Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance 2011.
- National Action Plan on AMR resistance 2017-2021.
- India has instituted surveillance of the emergence of drug resistance in disease causing microbes in programmes on Tuberculosis, Vector Borne diseases, AIDS, etc.
- Since March 2014 a separate Schedule H-1 has been incorporated in Drug and Cosmetic rules to regulate the sale of antimicrobials in the country.
- The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) banned the use of antibiotics and several pharmacologically active substances in fisheries.
- The government has also capped the maximum levels of drugs that can be used for growth promotion in meat and meat products.