The coronavirus has, as per official statistics, killed close to twenty thousand Indians till date. While actual numbers eventually will probably be much higher, it will be nothing compared to the next big health crisis. Why? Because the next big crisis is antibiotic resistance. And it won’t just be about a flu that 99% of people recover from anyway. It will be about a lot of common and deadly diseases which are mostly treatable with antibiotics.
India’s huge antibiotic drug resistance problem is caused primarily by three things:
1. Excessive prescription of antibiotics by doctors
2. Indiscriminate use of antibiotics in feed meant for poultry and meat animals
3. Exposure to faecal matter in water
There is already widespread awareness about the first two causes. However, exposure to contaminated drinking water is generally not associated with antibiotic resistance. But, there is evidence to suggest that exposure to antibiotic resistant bacteria through water contaminated by faecal matter is just as much of a contributor to antibiotic resistance as the other two. More importantly, it is an issue specific to developing and underdeveloped countries.
Water safety is not an issue in the developed world, where tap water is potable. However, this is not the case in India, where water borne diseases like cholera, typhoid, and diarrhoea still sicken millions of people every year.
Unless India solves it’s water contamination problem, India’s mortality rate in the next, antibiotic resistant, pandemic will be double or even triple that of developed countries. And that pandemic is going to strike much sooner than we expect!