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Table of Contents
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 8-9

COVID-19 pandemic, superbugs, and the oncologists!

Department of Infectious Diseases, Apollo Cancer Institute, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission27-Feb-2021
Date of Decision28-Feb-2021
Date of Acceptance01-Mar-2021
Date of Web Publication26-Mar-2021

Correspondence Address:
Abdul Ghafur
Apollo Cancer Institute, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/crst.crst_52_21

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How to cite this article:
Ghafur A. COVID-19 pandemic, superbugs, and the oncologists!. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2021;4:8-9

How to cite this URL:
Ghafur A. COVID-19 pandemic, superbugs, and the oncologists!. Cancer Res Stat Treat [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Jun 21];4:8-9. Available from: https://www.crstonline.com/text.asp?2021/4/1/8/312112

Infections are the most common cause of death in patients with cancer. Patients with cancer are the most vulnerable to the challenge of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). AMR is usually considered a silent pandemic, but in patients with cancer, it strikes like lightning. A patient with febrile neutropenia who is sitting and smiling now may end up in the intensive care unit an hour later.

India has one of the highest AMR rates in the world. With a population of more than a billion, socioeconomic disparity, and a diverse health-care system, India has the perfect recipe for an AMR crisis. The more resistant a bacterial infection is, the higher the death rate in patients with cancer. So how did patients with cancer in India survive the intensive chemotherapy regimens during the challenging years of the AMR crisis? How did the Indian oncologists continue to provide chemotherapy services with good results?

Infectious disease physicians and microbiologists are well versed with the challenge of AMR. Over the past several decades, we have tried to convince the medical fraternity about the importance of rational antibiotic usage. Oncologists in India have played a significant role in tackling the socio-political challenge of AMR. Oncologists constitute the group of doctors who experience the AMR challenge in its worst form in their everyday practice.

Working as an infection specialist in an oncology center in the country and being the coordinator of the Chennai declaration initiative on AMR, I believe that Indian oncologists deserve a round of applause for their support of the implementation of antibiotic stewardship and infection control policies in oncology centers in India.

In 2012, medical societies in India came together to launch an initiative to convince the medical community and the policymakers about the need to tackle the challenge of AMR in the country. That initiative is now known as the Chennai Declaration. The Chennai declaration document was published in the Indian Journal of Cancer.[1]

The Chennai declaration initiative is one of India's most significant efforts to tackle AMR. It has played a cardinal role in regulating the over-the-counter sale of antibiotics and banning colistin as a growth promoter in animal farming.

Across the world, onco-hematologists have played a significant role in tackling AMR. Professor Dame Sally Davies, one of the admirals in the AMR army, is a hematologist.

Sincere and coordinated efforts of the activists, non-governmental organizations, governmental agencies, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations have helped in convincing the world that AMR is one of the biggest challenges ever faced by the global health-care system. Unfortunately, the worldwide momentum of tackling AMR is now very slow, and most countries have not yet implemented their national AMR action plans. The world is still suffering from the AMR crisis, even amidst the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.[2]

AMR is a complex problem, similar to global warming and poverty. Coordination, persistence, and perseverance are the keys to tame this complex issue. We should learn from our past successes and failures. It is time for the WHO to re-launch the Global AMR Action Plan.

AMR has made a significant negative impact on cancer care at the global level. So far, we stood united against the superbug menace, and we should continue to fortify our defenses against the enemy; only then, we can tame the superbugs. Else, both the present and the future generations will succumb to untreatable bacterial infections.

COVID-19 has posed another unprecedented challenge to the oncologists. Patients with cancer are among the most immunocompromised individuals we can ever encounter, and hence, face a very high risk of mortality due to COVID-19.[3] Oncologists and oncology infection specialists in India adapted the practice of oncology treatment and infection control measures to withstand the pandemic's brutal attack. We have survived a massive first wave of the pandemic. If we continue to be as resilient and ingenious as we were during the first wave, we might be able to withstand the future waves too.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Ghafur A, Mathai D, Muruganathan A, Jayalal JA, Kant R, Chaudhary D, et al. The Chennai declaration: A roadmap to tackle the challenge of antimicrobial resistance. Indian J Cancer 2013;50:71-3.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]  [Full text]  
Pande P, Sharma P, Goyal D, Kulkarni T, Rane S, Mahajan A. COVID-19: A review of the ongoing pandemic. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3:221-32.  Back to cited text no. 2
  [Full text]  
Bansal N, Ghafur A. COVID-19 in oncology settings. Cancer Res Stat Treat 2020;3 Suppl S1:13-4.  Back to cited text no. 3


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