Misuse of antibiotics has dire economic, health implications – experts

Some participants in a group picture with members of AMR Ghana platform

Some health experts have called for concerted efforts in dealing with the threat of abusing antibiotics in fighting infections, which leads to a major health complication known as Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

AMR is the ability of a microorganism such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and some parasites to survive the lethal effects of an antimicrobial, resulting in a situation where standard treatments become ineffective while infections persist and may spread to others.

A major contributor to AMR, which has been declared by WHO as a global health security threat, is the misuse of antimicrobials; largely as a result of ignorance and irresponsible use by all actors. This critical health situation is deemed to have a significant impact on the socio-economic development of lower- and middle-income countries.

A Clinical Pharmacologist and Head of Department of Pharmacy Practice at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Prof. Kwame Ohene Buabene, said dealing with a possible AMR situation will require a robust health system, as well as tackling environmental health issues across the country.

Again, he opined that there will have to be an effective regulatory system capable of controlling the sale and use of drugs used to fight infections, mostly antibiotics, across all sectors including the crops and animal health sectors.

It is against this background that he noted the major interventions to promote responsible use of antimicrobials, including awareness creation among various actors being implemented through the National Action Plan, must be collective.

The National Action Plan (NAP) he described as an antimicrobial stewardship framework developed by the country to systemically address antimicrobial use and resistance. It is being implemented by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Environment Science Technology and Innovation and the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

Prof. Ohene Buabene was speaking in an interview at the end of a two-day workshop to educate media practitioners on AMR, and said it is extremely important for all stakeholders to work strongly together to ensure efficient implementation of NAP.

He however acknowledged that since the launch of NAP some significant progress has been made. “As far as the policy implementation is concerned, I am very happy with the progress that has been made.”

Launch of the policy and action plan by President Akufo-Addo, he observed, is a good indication of the political will to ensure that the action plan is implemented. However, he called for more resources to be committed to ensure that all implementing agencies are able to work effectively to realise the overall objective. “I hope that all of them will commit significant resources and continue to work synergistically, so that the policy is implemented effectively and we all see the output – that is, infections being well-managed and infection prevention control strategies being implemented all over.”

Dr. Kofi Afakye of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), while acknowledging that AMR also occurs in the agricultural sector, disclosed that globally the agricultural sector uses more antimicrobials than all the other sectors. The global agricultural sector is said to consume about 60,000 tonnes of antimicrobials annually. This is said to be more than what is required for human use.

According to Dr. Afakye, research has shown that some 700,000 people globally die from AMR yearly. The death toll is expected to rise to 10 million people by 2050 if the situation is not contained. Locally, it has been found that 60 percent of farmers use antimicrobials on day-old chicks (DOCs) – however, about 98 percent of the farmers know what is involved in biosecurity but do not put it into practice.

“More of these farmers use antibiotics for prophylaxes, egg-boosting and as growth promoters, which should not be the case. This inappropriate use of antimicrobials leads to AMR.” He, therefore entreated farmers to refrain from these inappropriate practices.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week aims to increase awareness of global antibiotic resistance and encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policymakers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance. The AMR platform of Ghana, in one health approach, decided to engage media practitioners to deepen their understanding of AMR and the causes.

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