If you have an interest, any interest at all in antibiotic resistance which, experts claim, is on the rise in the country, here is your opportunity to get in a word. The Chennai Declaration Team, which has drawn up a five-year plan to tackle antibiotic resistance in the country, has called for public response to the plan. The draft recommendations are available on the website: www.chennaideclaration.org

“We are looking for suggestions so that the plan will be more comprehensive and practical,” says Abdul Ghafur, infectious diseases consultant, Apollo Hospitals, and one of the key movers of the Chennai Declaration. “What our team has done is follow a simple principle: draw up a plan that is practical, implementable, and a step-by-step strategy to tackle antibiotic resistance for India and other developing countries,” Dr. Ghafur explains.

From over the counter sale of antibiotics, to monitoring antibiotic usage in hospitals, stepping up infection control, regulation of antibiotics in veterinary practice, setting up a National Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring Network, and facilitating clinical research for preventive strategies, the plan provides a graded timescale for achieving targets.

The Chennai Declaration team has emphasised the importance of education and training for medical professionals on antibiotics usage in order to win the battle against resistant strains of bacteria. This translates into a recommendation to the Medical Council of India to make curriculum changes that would ensure rational antibiotics usage and infection control. Besides, the plan recommends that post-doctoral training in infectious diseases be started in medical schools.

It also proposes that medical societies be involved in creation of online modules on antibiotics usage that doctors can take as part of their continuing medical education programme. There is a role for Hospital Accreditation Agencies too in monitoring their clients for infection control strategies.

It has also advocated the formation of two separate National Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring Networks, one each to look at resistance in human beings and animals. This would include setting up state-of-the-art microbiology laboratories in all tertiary and secondary care hospitals in the country, to follow standardised methodologies to perform cultures of samples.

“We have also decided to observe November 18 as Antibiotics Awareness Day,” says A.Muruganathan, president, Association of Physicians of India, “just as it is being done in some countries in Europe.” The need is to popularise awareness about antibiotics usage among both physicians and the public. “Just as doctors need to be aware about rational prescriptions of antibiotics, patients need to know get a few facts right. For instance, it is futile to dose up on antibiotics to fight colds. They do nothing to the cold, and may cause side effects.”