Misuse of antibiotics dangerous to health, WHO cautions

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The World Health Organisation (WHO), says misuse of antibiotics is dangerous to health and can put people at risk.

Speaking in Abuja as part of activities to mark the World Antibiotic Awareness Week, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said that it kills 700,000 people worldwide annually.

He said that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) endangered health security and “our progress towards universal health coverage, by threatening to reverse medical advances of the twentieth century.

“It reduces our ability to treat diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea and cancer. AMR also threatens our ability to conduct surgeries and to care for premature babies.

“This silent pandemic is already leading to about,  700,000 deaths worldwide each year and if left unchecked, AMR could cause up to 10 million deaths annually by 2050.

“People living in developing countries and those in fragile contexts, affected by conflicts and violence, are particularly vulnerable,” she said. 

Moeti, represented by WHO Officer-in-Charge, Dr Clement Peters said, “We are seeing high resistance to common pathogens such as 98 per cent fluoroquinolone-resistant Escherichia coli, meaning there are limited treatment options for people that get this infection.

“Key challenges in combating AMR include: weak regulatory systems facilitating proliferation of substandard and falsified medicines; limited implementation of standards for clean water, sanitation and hygiene, and to prevent and control infections; and a lack of reliable data,”  the expert explained. 

She said WHO and other partners were working with countries to address these challenges by implementing “One Health” national action plans. “

She said the plan would bring together different sectors and disciplines to build stronger regulatory systems, to improve surveillance, and to develop policies to promote appropriate antibiotic use among humans, and in livestock and agriculture.

According to her, in the African Region, nine of 47 countries now have functioning multisectoral working groups on AMR and 19 countries have enrolled in the Global AMR Surveillance System (GLASS).

“Twenty-four countries have legislation on the prescription and sale of antimicrobials for human use and six have national monitoring systems for consumption and rational use of antimicrobials in human health.

“Together, we need to accelerate action to reduce the increasing prevalence of drug-resistant infections,” she said. 

Moeti urged Nigerians to do more to handle antibiotics with care, adding that governments could adequately ensure national action plans, promote AMR governance, facilitate multisectoral collaboration, and increase access to clean water and sanitation.

She said that patients should only use antibiotics prescribed by a certified health professional.

The Regional Director urged health workers to always follow infection prevention and control practices, and only prescribe and dispense antibiotics when they were truly needed.

According to her, the private sector can invest in research and development of new antibiotics while the agricultural industry can reduce the use of antibiotics in livestock farming.

“Working together and taking a holistic approach to safeguarding antibiotics, will help to ensure that we can all look forward to a healthier future,” she said.

This 2019 theme is “handle antibiotics with care.”

It also emphasizes the need to use antibiotics safely and responsibly across sectors, from agricultural and livestock production to public health, and to mitigate the impacts of antimicrobial pollution contaminating water and soil.

 

Bilkisu Pai