Stemming the Tide: Combating Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in the Asia Pacific Region

On April 30th, the Asia Pacific chapter of UNITE convened a significant meeting to address the pressing issue of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) under the theme “Stemming the Tide: Combating Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in the Asia Pacific Region.” This gathering brought together a diverse group of stakeholders, including representatives from India, Australia, Nepal, Bangladesh, and China, along with leading organizations such as the World Medical Association (WMA), Asia Europe Foundation (ASEF), and Global Health Strategies (GHS). The aim was to explore the profound public health challenges posed by AMR and its far-reaching consequences on healthcare systems, economies, and sustainable development in the region.

Setting the Context: Dr. Caline Mattar

Dr. Caline Mattar, Associate Professor of Medicine at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of multiple expert groups on AMR and Infection Prevention at the WHO, set the context for the discussions.

She provided a foundational understanding of AMR, highlighting its significance due to the many consequences it entails, such as difficulty in treating conditions like pneumonia and blood infections. Dr. Mattar emphasized that even minor skin wounds could lead to catastrophic consequences due to infections caused by AMR. She shared alarming statistics, noting that in 2019, approximately 4.9 million deaths were associated with bacterial AMR.

Dr. Mattar also underscored the multifaceted drivers of AMR, which extend beyond human health to include agriculture, animals, food, and soil. The dumping of pharmaceutical waste into water bodies and soil is a significant contributor to AMR, affecting both humans and animals. She called upon Members of Parliament (MPs) and their respective countries to prioritize AMR ahead of the UN high-level meeting.

You can find Dr. Caline Mattar’s presentation here.

Integrating AMR into National Healthcare: Ms. Riko Kimoto

Ms. Riko Kimoto from the Asia Europe Foundation (ASEF), who oversees the thematic area of Public Health, shared her expertise on integrating AMR into national healthcare infrastructure.

 She noted that antibiotics are the backbone of modern medicine and stressed the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, warning that AMR could similarly escalate into a silent pandemic if not addressed.

Ms. Kimoto highlighted the challenges in pandemic preparedness, emphasizing that many countries have developed plans for AMR but struggle to implement them effectively. She pointed out that AMR often manifests as a secondary condition, making it harder to detect and address, yet it continues to cause significant mortality.

You can find Ms. Riko Kimoto’s presentation here.

Engaging MPs in Global Health Diplomacy: Indira Behara Tankha

Indira Behara Tankha, Vice President of Global Health Strategies (GHS) India, gave a compelling presentation on the role of MPs in global health diplomatic gatherings, particularly focusing on the upcoming UN High-Level Meeting on AMR in September.

 She discussed the major frameworks around AMR, particularly national action plans, and stressed the need for better planning and budgeting for AMR.

Ms. Tankha urged policymakers to increase public awareness, engage with ministries and task forces, and ensure that AMR becomes a priority in government budgets. She emphasized the importance of MPs elevating the discourse on AMR with their colleagues and spotlighting the issue.

You can find Indira Behara Tankha’s presentation here.

Parliamentary Perspectives

Several parliamentarians shared their insights and perspectives on combating AMR:


Amar Patnaik (India) highlighted the silent pandemic nature of AMR and the need for more action from the Environmental Ministry regarding pharmaceutical waste protocols, emphasizing the disproportionate impact on the poor.

Fauzia Khan (India) discussed the environmental impact of climate change on microbial diseases and the importance of adopting a One Health approach. She stressed the role of parliamentarians in influencing policy and spreading awareness.

Prof. Habibe Milliat (Bangladesh) focused on the challenges of loose regulation regarding antibiotic access in developing countries, underscoring the importance of combating AMR for humans, animals, and the environment.

Ramesh Paudyal (Nepal) emphasized the issue of antibiotic abuse, noting that most doctors prescribe antibiotics without proper laboratory tests, leading to widespread misuse.

Agnes Lam (China) discussed how technology can aid in tackling AMR through surveillance measures, the importance of tracking antibiotic use, and the potential of AI systems while considering privacy issues.

Sophia Moermond (Australia) highlighted the challenges of antibiotic access, the impact of patents on medicine prices, and the need for education and awareness to prevent misuse and overuse. She also stressed the importance of proper testing for the right antibiotics, despite the associated costs.

Aditya Joshi (India) represented parliamentarian Niranjan Reddy and focused on India’s One Health strategy for tackling AMR, providing a comprehensive overview of India’s national plan for antimicrobial resistance.

Collective Action for a Sustainable Future

UNITE’s parliamentarians delved into the multifaceted nature of AMR, discussing its implications for healthcare systems, economies, and sustainable development in the Asia Pacific context. Our aim through these talks is to galvanize stakeholders to address the AMR threat collectively, emphasizing the significance of collaborative efforts and evidence-based interventions.

By working together, we can stem the tide of AMR and ensure a healthier, more sustainable future for the Asia Pacific region and beyond.

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