The National Institute for Communicable (NICD), will commemorate World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) between 18 and 24 November. Led by the World Health Organization (WHO), the purpose of the 2020 campaign ‘United to preserve antimicrobials’ is to raise awareness of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), a condition that poses serious public health concerns which directly impacts on national and global mortality figures.
Launched by the WHO in 2015, WAAW evolved from ‘antibiotics’ to ‘antimicrobials’ to include all antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals and anti-parasitic medicines that play a key role in treating infections caused by microorganisms. AMR occurs in microorganisms that cause diseases in humans and animals and in many cases with no effective treatment options This is especially alarming as common human diseases now have the ability to develop into severe, if not fatal, illnesses.
The NICD’s Centre for Healthcare-Associated Infections, Antimicrobial Resistance and Mycoses (CHARM) ardently supports the WHO’s Global Antimicrobial Resistance System (GLASS) by collecting antibiotic susceptibility testing data from both the public and private sectors. The data collected from the resistance rates highlights key indicators that contribute to the efforts of the National Department of Health (NDoH) in developing effective AMR policies.
In 2014 the NDoH launched an Implementation Plan for the AMR strategy framework and outlined five strategic objectives the ministry would like to achieve before the end of 2024. The objectives are; (1) govern under one health structure, (2) strengthen surveillance for AMR and usage, (3) prevent infections by infection prevention, control measures and vaccination, (4) apply antimicrobial stewardship principles and (5) enhance strategic enablers for legislative and policy reform for health systems strengthening, education, workforce development, research and communication.
AMR is fast-tracked by the overuse of medications, and those with limited access to clean water and sanitation are considered high risk. Communities, however, have the power in their hands to fight AMR through good hygiene and staying up to date with vaccinations. Care also needs to be taken when preparing food to prevent food-borne infections. Knowledge remains key and those seeking medical attention have an option to explore alternative treatments. Those who have been administered antibiotics should be aware to discard it once a course has been completed and not to share leftover antibiotics.
In addition, to limit the emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections, the WAAW campaign seeks to promote best practice amongst healthcare professionals, policymakers and the public at large.