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Experts warn that drug-resistant diseases are now posing a significant threat to global health.

According to experts, drug-resistant diseases are responsible for the deaths of at least 700,000 people annually.

During a virtual media roundtable organised by Pfizer, health experts emphasized that Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) has become a major concern for global health, with minor infections potentially becoming life-threatening and difficult to treat if left unaddressed. The experts aimed to raise awareness about AMR and reinforce efforts to ensure patient safety, with the ultimate goal of preserving the future efficacy of antibiotics. According to the experts, at least 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases.

During the roundtable, Professor Oyinlola Oduyebo, a Clinical Microbiology expert from the University of Lagos, emphasized the devastating impact of AMR on global health. She explained that AMR increases the rates of illness and death and is linked to high healthcare costs due to the burden of treating infections. Professor Oduyebo also emphasized that while antibiotics are useful in treating infections, their effectiveness is rapidly decreasing as they become resistant to these treatments.

She further explained that appropriate use of antibiotics is critical in eradicating bacterial infections. However, improper usage such as overdosing, taking for too short or too long a duration, taking them when there is no infection, or taking them for the wrong infection, can lead to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. These bacteria adapt and can reproduce by using their various resistance genes.

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a process in which microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites evolve to become resistant to antimicrobial drugs, including antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiparasitics. As a result, infections become more difficult to treat, leading to severe illness, increased morbidity and mortality rates, and the risk of disease spread. Antimicrobial drugs are used to prevent and treat infections in humans, animals, and plants. According to Kodjo Soroh, the Medical Director of West Africa Pfizer, drug-resistant diseases cause at least 700,000 deaths annually.

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According to Mr Soroh, the consequences of AMR are dire, with common diseases such as respiratory tract infections, sexually transmitted infections, and urinary tract infections becoming untreatable. Lifesaving medical procedures are also becoming riskier, and the food systems are increasingly precarious. He warned that without action by governments, industry, and society, AMR is expected to cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 due to the overuse of antibiotics, which is creating stronger germs. Mr Soroh expressed concern that some bacteria are already resistant to common antibiotics, making it harder and more expensive to treat infections when they occur. He emphasized that losing the ability to treat serious bacterial infections poses a significant threat to public health.

Mr Soroh said governments and the public health community must work together with industry to take further action and support measures that will enable continued innovation in the development of new antibiotics and vaccines to help curb the spread of AMR.According to Ms Oduyebo, the Antimicrobial Stewardship (AMS) program is an essential tool in the fight against resistance and the protection of global health. She explained that the AMS is a healthcare strategy that aims to improve the rational use of antimicrobials, promote their future effectiveness, and protect public health by monitoring and evaluating their use.

According to Ms Oduyebo, the success of AMS lies in implementing evidence-based interventions that promote the appropriate use of antimicrobials. She further emphasized the need for a “One Health” approach, which is a holistic and multisectoral approach to addressing the rising threat of AMR. In her view, the adoption of AMS practices, principles, and interventions is a critical step towards containing and mitigating AMR.

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Kennedy Wariso highlighted the benefits of the Antimicrobial Stewardship (AMS) program, stating that it optimizes the use of antimicrobials, improves patient outcomes, reduces AMR and healthcare-associated infections, and saves healthcare costs, among other things. The AMS program is a system-wide healthcare strategy aimed at promoting the rational use of antimicrobials to preserve their future effectiveness while also protecting public health. The “One Health” approach is also necessary to address the increasing threat of AMR, as it takes a holistic and multisectoral approach to the issue.

AMR Prof Wariso from UPH

Mr Wariso said, with rates of AMR increasing worldwide, and very few new antibiotics being developed, existing antibiotics are becoming a limited resource.

“It is therefore essential that antibiotics only be prescribed – and that last-resort antibiotics be reserved – for patients who truly need them. Hence, AMS and its defined set of actions for optimising antibiotic use are of paramount importance,” he said.