Need for joint effort to combat antibiotic resistance

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022 10:00 | By
Need for joint effort to combat antibiotic resistance
Need for joint effort to combat antibiotic resistance. PHOTO/Courtesy

The use of antibiotics has revolutionised the healthcare system, radically extending and improving human life.

However, today’s “silent pandemic” of antimicrobial resistance has escalated along with our dependence on antibiotics. According to information shared by the Ministry of Health, antimicrobial resistance globally has led to 10 million people dying yearly and will also account for three per cent reduction in GDP by 2050.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a condition in which bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites evolve over time and cease to be responsive to antibiotics. This makes infections more difficult to cure and raises the risk of disease transmission, life-threatening sickness and death. Drug resistance makes it impossible to treat illnesses and renders antibiotics and other antimicrobial medications ineffective.

As the world marks Antimicrobial Awareness Week, themed Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together, stakeholders must put in place measures to reduce the further spread and emergence of AMR.

Evidence generated in a report dubbed People Power by Africa’s Voices Foundation and Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data points to a need for all hands on the deck to overcome the AMR challenge.

Firstly, government and development agencies must pay attention to evidence-informed decision-making. Decision-making processes on AMR should be founded on the best scientific evidence available and created in an inclusive manner that involves insights from communities at the grassroots.

Scientific and citizen-generated evidence will help in providing appropriate programmes, services, and medications to those who require them. Secondly, awareness creation on the appropriate use of antibiotics is key. When antimicrobial medications are misused bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites they are intended to kill may develop higher resistance. Antibiotics should not be sold over the counter at pharmacies and should only be given by qualified medical professionals familiar with best practices. Awareness campaigns should support best practices to ensure all healthcare workers and community members understand the effects contributing to AMR through misuse, overuse, underuse and improper disposal of unused antibiotics.

Also, ensure there is equitable access to antibiotics. In many cases, patients tend to buy whatever over-the-counter antibiotics they get, or worse, purchase substandard medications. Hence promoting the survival and reproduction of naturally resistant germs and accelerating AMR.  Institutionalisation of appropriate regulations. The right medicine should be given to the right patient at the right time. Alternatively, the sale of antibiotics should be conditional to a prescription by a qualified medical personnel.

Finally, enhance collaboration and innovation. The creation of contemporary antibiotics and improvement of the existing ones to increase their efficacy, supported by international institutions to finance their creation and encourage appropriate use would go a long way in addressing the challenge.

This World Antimicrobial Awareness Week should be a wake up call to all stakeholders to leverage their synergy to address AMR challenge.

Communities must know the dangers of AMR and proper antibiotic usage and disposal. Healthcare professionals must administer medication with an understanding of AMR consequences. Also, policy makers and development organisations must consider the improvement of health systems to fight AMR as a desirable investment. Elsewhere, the use of citizen-generated data and evidence cannot be overemphasised.

— Samuel Kimeu is Executive Director, Africa’s Voices Foundation

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