- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
When the United Nations meets Sept. 21 in New York, they want the UN to reframe its action on the global antimicrobial drug resistance (AMR) crisis.
It's crucial. How crucial is it?
Antimicrobial drug resistance threatens both personal and planetary health and the issue is as crucial as the global threat of climate change, Carroll says.
In a paper titled “Use Antimicrobials Wisely,” published in the current edition of Nature, a nine-member international research team, including Carroll, explained their advocacy.
“We're concerned about what will happen if the proposed UN solutions focus mainly on incentives for new drug development, at a time when the drug industry itself is abandoning those efforts against infectious disease due to AMR,” said Carroll, who co-leads the international group on resistance to pesticides and antimicrobial drugs. He founded and directs the Institute for Contemporary Evolution, Davis, and is affiliated with the Sharon Lawler lab, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
The paper, published in the Comment section, is the first product from a two-year working group sponsored by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center in Annapolis, Md. “We are taking a similar socio-environmental approach in our concurrent work on pesticide stewardship,” Carroll said.
“While new drugs have a role, we think it's more important for society to learn how to steward pathogen susceptibility, so we develop that theme in the paper,” Carroll said. “And because we also depend on microbes for digestion, immunity, and general health, and microbes support ecosystem functioning through nutrient cycles and the maintenance of soil and water quality, we further argue that our AM drug habits and waste streams threaten both personal and planetary health. “
Lead authors of the paper are Peter Jorgensen of Stockholm, Sweden, and Didier Wernli of Geneva Switzerland. Jørgensen, who spent part of his Danish graduate program working with Carroll in Davis, is now a postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Swedish Academy of Science, Stockholm.
Carroll described AMR as more than a medical dilemma—it's a socio-ecological problem. “The vulnerability of pathogens to antimicrobial drugs is a communal resource, readily threatened by overuse, to be lost as a classic 'tragedy of the commons.' There is a lot of contemporary theory for social resilience in the face of socio-ecological challenges, and– linking to entomology– the early success of the pioneering management of Bt crop pest resistance evolution is an encouraging precedent.”
In its planetary health approach, the group seeks to be “more cognizant not only of preserving drug susceptibility in pathogenic microbes, but also protecting from wholesale destruction the community of microbes on which we depend for life,” Carroll said.
In the paper, the scientists pointed out that “Resistance affects animal and environmental health as well as human health, and so requires coordinated action across economic sectors. No single concern exemplifies this better than the high rate of antibiotic use in agriculture (largely as growth promoters or disease prevention).” They wrote that in the United States, 70 to 80 percent of all anti-microbials consumed are given to livestock.
An example of antimicrobial resistance involves the malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae. The World Health Organization (WHO) in a document, "Global Action Plan on Anti-Microbial Resistance," wrote:
"Antimicrobial resistance can affect all patients and families. Some of the commonest childhood diseases in developing countries – malaria, pneumonia, other respiratory infections, and dysentery – can no longer be cured with many older antibiotics or medicines. In lower- income countries, effective and accessible antibiotics are crucial for saving the lives of children who have those diseases, as well as other conditions such as bacterial blood infections. In all countries, some routine surgical operations and cancer chemotherapy will become less safe without effective antibiotics to protect against infections."
Expect to hear more about this alarming crisis--the global antimicrobial drug resistance crisis. Meanwhile, read the WHO Global Action Plan.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
The two-year global assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) lamented the decline in pollinators due to such human-driven factors as habitat loss, pesticides, and malnutrition. These and other culprits, including pests, invasive species and climate change, can mean extinction of many species.
Major news organizations quickly sought input from experts, including two UC Davis entomologists: native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology, who was interviewed by KGO Radio, San Francisco, and pollination ecologist Neal Williams, associate professor of entomology, who provided comments to The Washington Post.
It's not only the pollinators that are under siege. So are "the livelihoods and hundreds of billions of dollars worth of food supplies," according to the Feb. 26 IPBES report.
The assessment, "Thematic Assessment of Pollinators, Pollination and Food Production," is the first issued by the four-year-old IPBES, which spans 124 member nations. Seventy-seven experts participated, drawing information from 3000 scientific papers.
"Pollinators are important contributors to world food production and nutritional security," said Vera Lucia Imperatriz-Fonseca, Ph.D., co-chair of the assessment and senior professor at the University of São Paulo. "Their health is directly linked to our own well-being."
Numbers released by IPBES help tell the story:
- 20,000 – Number of species of wild bees. There are also some species of butterflies, moths, wasps, beetles, birds, bats and other vertebrates that contribute to pollination.
- 75 Percent – Percentage of the world's food crops that depend at least in part on pollination.
- 235 billion to $577 billion – Annual value of global crops directly affected by pollinators.
- 300 Percent – Increase in volume of agricultural production dependent on animal pollination in the past 50 years.
- Almost 90 Percent – Percentage of wild flowering plants that depend to some extent on animal pollination.
- 1.6 million tons – Annual honey production from the western honeybee.
- 16.5 Percent – Percentage of vertebrate pollinators threatened with extinction globally.
- 40 Percent (plus) – Percentage of invertebrate pollinator species – particularly bees and butterflies – facing extinction.
"In addition to food crops, pollinators contribute to crops that provide biofuels (e.g. canola and palm oils), fibers (e.g cotton), medicines, forage for livestock, and construction materials. Some species also provide materials such as beeswax for candles and musical instruments, and arts and crafts," IPBES related.
The report indicated that pesticides, pests and diseases pose a special threat to managed bees "but the risk can be reduced through better disease detection and management, and regulations relating to trade and movement of bees."
Pollinators need to be protected, the report emphasized. We can help safeguard our pollinators by:
- Maintaining or creating greater diversity of pollinator habitats in agricultural and urban landscapes;
- Supporting traditional practices that manage habitat patchiness, crop rotation, and coproduction between science and indigenous local knowledge;
- Education and exchange of knowledge among farmers, scientists, industry, communities, and the general public;
- Decreasing exposure of pollinators to pesticides by reducing their usage, seeking alternative forms of pest control, and adopting a range of specific application practices, including technologies to reduce pesticide drift; and
- Improving managed bee husbandry for pathogen control, coupled with better regulation of trade and use of commercial pollinators
- A high diversity of wild pollinators contributes to increased stability in pollination, even when managed bees are present in high numbers.
- Crop yields depend on both wild and managed species.
- The western honey bee is the most widespread managed pollinator in the world, producing an estimated 1.6 million tons of honey annually.
- The number of beehives has increased globally over the past 50 years, but a decrease in hives has occurred in many European and North American countries.
- Climate change has led to changes in the distribution of many pollinating bumblebees and butterflies and the plants that depend upon them
Neal Williams explained to The Washington Post in an email: "Hospitable landscapes are ones where there are suitable nesting habitats for diverse pollinator species, and where consistent forage resources are accessible (within the flight range) of the bees throughout their flight seasons."
Robbin Thorp told KGO that "through agricultural intensification, we have a lost a lot of habitat for native pollinators." He advocated more nesting habitat for bees. And, he said, "we need to be cautious whenever we apply pesticides" because pesticides are designed to kill insects, and bees are insects.
Honey bees, Thorp said, are just one species of about 20,000 bees in the world. "Most native bees are solitary bees that nest in the ground. They don't have a queen, they don't make honey, but they are very important in our environment."
Protecting our pollinators is crucial. They are, as IPBES, said, "economically, socially and culturally important."