Melanie Parker and Andrea Britton
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, concerns grow for the important issues placed on the proverbial ‘backburner’, such as antimicrobial resistance.
There are also concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic has further driven antimicrobial resistance, with a number of reasons postulated, including higher antibiotic use, infection prevention and control issues, as well as diversion of resources.
Antimicrobials are drugs used to treat many different infections in animals, humans, and plants. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), according to the World Health Organization, happens when “bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.”
Already, AMR negatively influences health. Almost five million deaths in 2019 were estimated to be “associated with bacterial AMR,” according to a study in The Lancet. By 2050, it’s estimated that about 10 million people will die annually from drug-resistant diseases. To tackle this global issue, a collaborative, cross-jurisdictional approach is clearly needed.
Following this vein, and building on the platform of recent global developments, the theme of the upcoming World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW), announced last month, is ‘Preventing antimicrobial resistance together’.
— World Organisation for Animal Health – Middle East (@WOAH_MiddleEast) July 29, 2022
Because antimicrobials are used and exist across a range of environments (which all interact with each other), AMR therefore affects human, animal, and ecosystem health. Clearly, therefore, a collaborative, transdisciplinary, One Health approach is essential to tackling AMR. A One Health approach is where many sectors, such as food, animal, human and ecosystem sectors, work together to address cross-cutting problems.
This video by the Pan American Health Organization explains how this applies to tackling AMR:
Previously, the key global One Health leaders were the Tripartite Alliance, comprising the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH, formerly known as OIE).
In March 2022, however, the United Nations (UN) Environment Programme joined the alliance, which was then renamed the Quadripartite. The UN Environment Programme, which focuses on sustainability and the global environment, is a welcome fourth partner in this alliance, because many environment issues such as climate change directly affect human and animal health, including the food and agriculture sector. These four organisations have this month released a report investigating how “to strengthen One Health intelligence and to improve global health security.”
The report assessed several systems relevant to AMR, including the Global Antimicrobial Resistance and Use Surveillance System (GLASS), the Global Database on Antimicrobial Agents Used in Animals, and the International Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring platform (InFARM). Currently, there are widespread efforts to enact antimicrobial stewardship (optimisation of appropriate use of antimicrobials), including both in Australia and in partnership with neighbouring countries. However, efforts must continue in order to address the growing problem of AMR.
As the Australian Government discusses the establishment of what Health Minister Mark Butler MP refers to as the Australian Centre for Disease Control, addressing cross-cutting issues such as antimicrobial resistance will likely be front-of-mind for policymakers.
To contribute to a future world where antimicrobials continue to be efficacious treatment options, each of us must be advocates for antimicrobial awareness and stewardship, and working together across sectors will be key to success.
Find out more about World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2022, held 18-24 November, and stay tuned for more information on how to get involved.
PHAA’s One Health Special Interest Group (SIG) are strong advocates for human, animal, and ecosystem health. If you’d like to get involved in their activities, find out more here or email email@example.com. You can also follow our One Health SIG on Twitter.
Image: Mihail Macri/Unsplash