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The media globally has been asked to help raise awareness on Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

Posted by JUDITH DORA AKOLO on 18 November 2022 3:00 PM CAT
JUDITH DORA AKOLO photo

The media globally has been asked to help raise awareness on Antimicrobial resistance (AMR)

By Judith Akolo

One of the greatest challenges is that of communicating antimicrobial resistance as it is thought to be something that is complicated and a complex.

The Head of the Antimicrobial Stewardship and Awareness Unit at the World Health Organisation (WHO) Thomas Joseph says the media has a big role to simplify the messages, clarify, “to make it common knowledge, common understanding the same way it happened in HIV in which so much was achieved through simplifying complex messages about the disease.”

Speaking the second annual global media forum on AMR in the lead up to the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) 2022, Joseph said that the same should be done with communicating Antimicrobial resistance.

In his presentation, Joseph said that in 2019, it was estimated that almost 5 million deaths each year associated with bacterial AMR, “including 1.27 million deaths being directly caused by it,” he said and added, “It is a leading cause of death and is growing.”

Lower respiratory tract infections, like pneumonia, accounted for more than 1.5 million deaths associated with antimicrobial resistance in 2019, making it the most burdensome infectious syndrome of our time.

The burden of AMR he said is greatest in low-resource setting, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, “making it the most burdensome infectious syndrome of our time,” said Joseph.

The Head of Antimicrobial Stewardship and Awareness Unit at WHO said AMR is not only a global public health problem, but also an issue of health equity and greatly impacts socioeconomic development.

He notes that drug resistance does not only affect bacterial infections, it is also affecting medicines used in treatment of fungal, and parasitic infections, such as HIV, malaria and Tuberculosis, “this are huge public health burden in the world, we are at risk of losing the gains we have made in combating, HIV, Malaria and TB.”

“A person with a drug-resistant infection is more likely to be sick and absent from work and family commitments, for longer, and require more expensive medicines and medical care,” he warns and adds, “This has major implications on health-care costs and productivity, both for patients and their caregivers, as well as more broadly on the health system and national economy.”

While urging the media to report more on AMR and simplify the messaging, Joseph painted the grim picture of the situation in developing countries as the drug-resistant infections often require the use of second or even third-line treatments, “which are usually more expensive, not widely available and can cause serious side-effects like organ failure.” He notes.

While modern medicine is dependent on the ability to prevent and treat infections using antibiotics, including during joint replacement surgery, organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy and the treatment of chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes, Joseph warns that if antibiotics and other antimicrobials lose their effectiveness, “we lose the ability not only to treat infections, but also to manage these other health conditions.”

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) emergence and spread is accelerated by the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials to treat or prevent infections in humans, animals, and plants.

He advises that antibiotics are lifesaving, but they should only be taken when they have been prescribed by a health worker for bacterial infections and notes that unnecessary exposure to antibiotics, such as when they are prescribed and used for conditions that are not caused by bacteria, like colds and flues, allows antibiotic-resistant strains to develop.

He is calling for more awareness on treatment of ailments saying that some infections in the community could be caused by viruses, “which do not respond to antibiotics,” says Joseph. He notes that each year hundreds of millions of cases of diarrhoea in humans are treated with antimicrobials yet universal access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene could reduce this by 60%.

Having universal access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, as well as good infection prevention and control measures, such as hand washing and vaccination, are vital in the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR). These measures reduce the likelihood of infection in the first place, so that antibiotics don't need to be used.

It is important for all people everywhere, not just health care professionals, to be aware and have basic knowledge and understanding of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), so that they can play their part in minimizing its emergence and spread.

 

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