By Omar Bah
Health experts have warned that the misuse of antimicrobials risks killing over 10 million people around the world by 2050.
Antimicrobials are agents that kill, prevent or stop the growth of microorganisms in humans, animals, plants which include antibiotics, antiviral, antifungal and antiprotozoal medicines.
Concerned about the threat, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with key stakeholders on recently convened a day-long symposium as part of activities marking World Antimicrobials Awareness Week, which started from 18th and ended 24th November with the theme ‘united to preserve antimicrobials’.
The celebration sought to increase global awareness of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) and to encourage best practices among health workers, policymakers and the general public to prevent the further emergence and spread of drugs resistant infections.
Addressing the well-attended event, deputising for the Minister of Health, Karamba Keita, deputy permanent secretary, Technical at the Ministry of Health, said antimicrobials resistance is of “utmost concern in both developing and developed countries, particularly The Gambia where there is no established antimicrobials surveillance system.”
“Antimicrobials Resistance infections cause 700,000 deaths every year globally and are estimated to account for 10 million deaths each year by 2050 if no actions are taken. WHO has warned that the current trend in the emergence and spread of AMR could lead to ‘post-antibiotic era’ catastrophic consequences,” he said.
DPS Keita maintained that the risk and burden of AMR in Africa are disproportionately higher because of high population and disease burden triggering antimicrobials demand together with the unregulated antimicrobial use in both humans and animals and the wide circulation of counterfeit and substandard medicines.
Also speaking at the meeting, the WHO country rep, Dr Desta A. Tiruneh, said the WHO together with its partners, the FAO and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) has broadened this year’s campaign focus from antibiotics to antimicrobials.
“Antimicrobials are the most frequently reported substandard and falsified medicines and these substandard products are a key driver of antimicrobials resistance. Globally, one in 10 medicines is estimated to be substandard or falsified and the African region is affected more than other parts of the world,” he said.
He added: “In markets and on the street corners, people are buying antibiotics of un assured quality without prescriptions. WHO has declared that Antimicrobials Resistance is one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity. Governments, partners and the private sector can work together by investing in water and sanitation and hygiene infrastructure and limiting antimicrobials in livestock and aqua farming. Health workers should prescribe and dispense antibiotics only when indicated and limit the spread of infections by promoting good hygiene and sanitation practices.”
“We can do our share as individuals by only using antibiotics prescribed by a licenced health professional and completing the full prescribed course. We can also play a part by preventing infections and reducing the need for antibiotics by frequently washing our hands and covering our mouth when coughing or sneezing,” he said
The event also had presentations from Dr Ousman Ceesay, deputy director animal health department of livestock services, Dr Saffie Darboe, a microbiologist with the MRC and Dr Haddy Bah, chief scientist/ fellow in virology, EFSTH.