THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At the global level, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) has emerged as a ticking time-bomb. However, due to the lackadaisical attitude of authorities in the state, a first-of-its-kind study to identify the presence of antimicrobial residues in water bodies has found to be left in limbo.
Last November, a study regarding the same was jointly pitched by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) and Department of Environmental Sciences of the University of Kerala. On a pilot basis, the study was proposed to be conducted in the water bodies in Thiruvananthapuram.
"The idea of conducting a study on the presence of antimicrobial residues in water bodies came up during a workshop organised by the Centre for Science and Environment's Food Safety and Toxins Programme last September. But ever since no progress has been made," said an official with the Health Department.
According to the officer, a coordinated effort is needed to find the rate of antimicrobial residues in water bodies, marine resources, meat products, dairy products and others as its presence in the body will result in the ineffectiveness of standard treatments on the infected person.
AMR is the ability of a microorganism (bacteria, viruses, and some parasites) to stop an antimicrobial such as antibiotics, antivirals and antimalarials from working against it, said a faculty member of the Department of Environmental Sciences, "The study is yet to begin. The water bodies selected for the study include Karamana River, Killi River, Parvathi Putthanar and Vamanapuram River. Both Peppara and Aruvikkara dams were installed in the Karamana River. These dams meet the drinking water needs of the district. The Vamanapuram River is the main source for drinking water for people from the northern side of the district. Understanding its antimicrobial residue content is crucial," the faculty added.
The member further pointed out as per the decision then, samples from these water bodies were to be collected and tested or AMR bacteria and their AMR genes. The results will then be handed over to the Health Department for taking adequate measures under the Kerala AMR Strategic Action Plan (KARSAP).
At the same time, KSPCB authorities said that though much headway has not been made, it had submitted a proposal before the government to sanction adequate funds for setting up facilities including a lab.Following the emergence of AMR as a global public health concern, the Health Department with the help of various other departments launched the KARSAP in October. As per a study report of the World Health Organization (WHO), human excreta and untreated wastewater were found to be the major sources for the presence of antimicrobial agents in water bodies.
In addition, places which lack facilities to treat municipal, community and household wastes are also vulnerable to AMR.