Tackling antibiotic resistance is imperative for socio-economic development

photo credit: Andatech

Infectious diseases (IDs) have had significant impacts on health and socio-economic development, and to date infectious diseases continue to pose a major threat to global public health.

The effect of IDs on health and socio-economic development is huge in Low/Middle income countries, including Ghana and its neighbours, according to a clinical pharmacologist & Professor of Pharmacy practice, Kwame Ohene Buabeng of KNUST.

The FAO and other development partners, notably the OiE and WHO, have come to the realisation that Antibiotic resistance will be one of the biggest global health challenges facing this century as drugs which help fight infections start to become ineffective.

A global action programme (GAP) to tackle the growing problem of resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines was endorsed at the 68th World Health Assembly in 2015. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi.

To this end, as part of its awareness-creation and advocacy, the FAO organised a two-day media training exercise last week in Accra to improve understanding of AMR and encourage best practices, as a precursor to World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW) which is observed annually in November.

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Through support of the FAO in collaboration with its partners (WHO and OIE), Ghana has developed, launched and is now implementing a National AMR action plan.

However, even though activities on AMR are being implemented in the country and around the globe, not much has been achieved and AMR continues to pose threats to food insecurity and public health in the country as well as globally.

A major contributor to AMR is the misuse of antimicrobials – largely as a result of ignorance and irresponsible use by all actors.

For instance, there is misuse of antimicrobials in the agricultural sector in Ghana. Most farmers use antibiotics when animals are not sick. Studies have shown that more than 60% of poultry farmers in the country give antibiotics to day-old-chicks. The active ingredients of medicines for human and animals are the same.

Additionally, more antimicrobials are used in poultry, piggery, fish farming and ruminants. In Ghana, studies have found antibiotic residues in chicken, pork, beef and eggs. This is done through adding antibiotics to animal feed and water.

Global antimicrobial use in agriculture sector is estimated to be over 60,000 tonnes annually. Animals transfer AMR to humans and the environment. Research has shown that more than 60% of human transferrable diseases are of animal origin.

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The consequences of these are: ineffective treatment, prolonged treatment, high mortalities, and a drain on the economy.

Thus, AMR is an increasingly serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society. Professor Japheth A. Opintah of the Medical Microbiology Department at the University of Ghana says 700,000 deaths are recorded annually as a result of AMR – and if care is not taken, by 2050 one person will die from it from it every three seconds.

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