Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week 2020

By Tafara R. Dandadzi

What is Antimicrobial Resistance?

According to the Africa Union Center for Disease Control (AUCDC), Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) occurs when antimicrobials undergo genetic changes. Most microorganisms have used their survival mechanisms ( genetic changes) to resist the effect of Antimicrobials. The misuse, abuse and overuse of Antimicrobials in human health and animal health has led to resistance, which in turn spills over into the environment and contaminates our soils, plants and water sources. This is made worse by the effects of climate change like droughts and floods.

How does AMR occur?

Antimicrobial Resistance occurs when in human health, a person either is prescribed antibiotics when they do not need them for example when one has a flu or a cold ( virus) and they are prescribed with antibiotics which are effective in treating bacterial infections. The threat of AMR is made worse during these COVID 19 times, where many have used antibiotics to treat COVID 19 which is a virus and not a bacteria. Another scenario in human health is when one is given an antibiotic course to take and they do not finish it, leading to AMR. Lastly, a serious growing threat to AMR is the consumption of substandard, counterfeit or expired antibiotics.

As a result of the COVID 19 lockdowns, many were unable to make use of health facilities, or properly purchase standard medication which led them to buy substandard or counterfeit drugs, the AMR effects which we are still yet to experience. In the animal health sector, the misuse, abuse and lack of proper regulations in veterinary use of antibiotics, leads to AMR in the animal health sector.

As a result of a growing population and the need of more animal food products, farmers have turned to the use of antibiotics for therapeutic use and as growth hormones which in turn leads to AMR due to the overuse of antibiotics. Use of Antimicrobials in low dosages in animal feeds is a threat to the spread of Antimicrobial Resistance.

Antimicrobial Resistance is a major threat to food security, local jobs and economies, which all contribute to creating a major global security threat.

As a result of the misuse, abuse and overuse of Antimicrobials, the excrement from humans and animals contains Antimicrobials though in low doses, causing a build up of AMR in the water sources, soil and plants. This in turn creates Antimicrobial Resistance in the ecosystem.

The lack of strong regulations poses a major threat and thus the fight against AMR requires everyone, from animal health to human health.

Should one country fail to deal with Antimicrobial Resistance, this will have an effect on other countries as bacteria know no borders, as we have seen in COVID 19. The next Pandemic could be linked to Antimicrobial Resistance if it goes unchecked and unregulated.

What can we do to stop and halt the spread of AMR?

Good hygiene practices are essential for the reduction of the spread of infection (Image source: AUCDC)
  • We must promote good practices and prudent use of Antimicrobials in human and animal health sectors. We need regulations to stop the spread and use of counterfeit, substandard and expired drugs. Our systems in Africa need to be strengthened (as people do not know the dangers of buying these counterfeit drugs)
  • The politicians and policy makers need to invest more in Antimicrobial Resistance.
  • Look into ways of farming without the use of antibiotics.
  • We must raise awareness ourselves amongst ourselves. It is important that we read and learn.
  • The media has an important role to play in disseminating information on AMR.
  • We need legislation to be enacted that prevent the spread and emergence of AMR (requires competent politicians across the board).
  • We need to change our attitudes towards Antimicrobial use.
  • We need awareness to change attitudes, mindsets and promote research for innovation.
  • Promote nature-based solutions to prevent zoonotics.
  • Need to increase advocacy amongst our politicians.
  • Lastly we need to collaborate towards a one health approach.
  • In conclusion AMR is everyone’s responsibility; we need strong collaborations and act in a timely manner and to act now.

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