World Antimicrobial Awareness Week: emergence of antimicrobial resistance is a growing concern

By Duncan Mlanjira

In celebrating World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW, November 18-24), which World Health Organisation (WHO) set aside to increase awareness of global antimicrobial resistance Malawian, we continue our exclusive interview with Malawian, Dr. Parth Patel.

Dr. Parth Patel

He says WHO is calling for urgent and concerted action by governments, health professionals, industry, civil society and patients to slow down the emergence and spread of drug resistance, limit its impact today and preserve medical advances for future generations.

What can consumers do?

Dr. Parth says: “Antibiotics are a precious resource for everyone on the planet. Like any global good, we have a responsibility to protect this resource and to use it responsibly.

“Consumers can help by using antibiotics only when they are prescribed, and always completing the course of treatment. When people take only part of a course of treatment, this contributes to the development of drug resistance.

“It is important to understand that antibiotics designed for bacterial infections are not useful against viral infections such as a cold, a cough or influenza.”

What can doctors do?

“Doctors may come under pressure from patients and inappropriate pharmaceutical marketing to prescribe medicines when it may not be necessary.

“It is important that all health professionals, including doctors, resist this pressure.

“Doctors can help by explaining to their patients when antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs are appropriate, and when they are not.

“In addition, doctors can inform their patients of the necessity of completing a course of medicine when it is prescribed, rather than stopping the treatment as soon as they start to feel better.”

What can pharmacists do?

“Pharmacists have an especially important role to play, because in most settings they are the ones distributing antibiotic medicines to patients.

“Like other health professionals, pharmacists can ensure that patients understand the importance of taking only the medicines that are prescribed to them, and completing the full course of treatment.”

What can veterinarians and farmers do?

“Sick animals need to be treated too but, as with humans, the treatment must be rational.

“The routine use of antibiotics in vast numbers of healthy animals, such as for growth promotion, is likely to result in the emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and cause resistant infections in animals and humans.

“Resistant microorganisms carried by food-producing animals can spread to humans through consumption of contaminated food, from direct contact with animals, or by environmental spread, for example in contaminated water.

“Farmers can help by improving health management for food animal production by ensuring good hygiene practices and compliance with good farming practices.

“Veterinarians can help by being prudent when prescribing antibiotics, especially those that are also critically important for human medicine.”

What can the pharmaceutical industry do?

“The research and development of new medicines, including drugs and vaccines, and new diagnostic tools are vital to help protect future generations.

“The development of vaccines to prevent bacterial diseases would reduce the need for use of antibiotics. On the other hand, as drug resistance develops, new medicines are needed, as well as new ways of using existing medicines.

“Currently, there are very few new antimicrobial medicines, diagnostics or vaccines in the research and development pipeline.

“For example, fewer than 5% of drugs currently in development are new antibiotics. The industry should engage with partners to overcome the barriers to research and development and to guarantee broad access to drugs, vaccines and diagnostic tools.

“Better incentives are also needed to encourage more research and development into this vital area.”