Indian Council of Medical Research director Soumya Swaminathan has been named to a high-level group set up by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to provide expertise on and coordinate the global fight against antimicrobial resistance.
Swaminathan, 57, has been named to the ad hoc Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, which will be co-chaired by Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and World Health Organisation Director-General Margaret Chan.
Swaminathan is also Secretary, Department of Health Research in India's Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
A multi award-winning paediatrician and clinical scientist, she is known for her research on tuberculosis. She joined the Tuberculosis Research Centre, Chennai in 1992 and has spent the past 23 years in health research.
She has a Fellowship in Neonatology and Paediatric Pulmonology from at the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles at University of Southern California and is also Chair, HIV Section, at International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Diseases, according to her profile on ICMR's website.
After completing her MBBS from the Armed Forces Medical College, Pune she did her MD in Pediatrics from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.
Last September, UN Member States adopted the Political Declaration of the High-Level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance that contained a request for the UN Secretary-General to establish such a body.
The group comprises high level representatives of relevant UN agencies, other international organizations, and individual experts across different sectors, including animal health, agriculture, environment, and others.
The objective of the group will be to provide practical guidance for approaches needed to ensure sustained effective global action to address antimicrobial resistance, including options to improve coordination, taking into account the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance.
The group is expected to convene its first meeting within the next few weeks and will produce a report to the Secretary-General for the 73rd session of General Assembly.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) happens when microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs - antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, antimalarials, and anthelmintics.
Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are sometimes referred to as "superbugs." As a result, the medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others.
"As we enter the era of sustainable development, I would like to emphasize that antimicrobial resistance really does pose a formidable threat to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly in our developing countries," Mohammed said.
She added that the creation of the UN joint agency group to combat AMR and advise on the global effort, is a sign of how seriously UN Member States were taking the threat.
She said AMR is a "multi-sectoral problem" affecting human and animal health, agriculture, as well as the global environment and trade.
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