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  • Ghana's Antimicrobial Resistance Initiative
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    Published: 18th November, 2017

    Antimicrobials are medicines used to prevent and treat microbial infections in humans and animals. These wonder medicines are in danger of losing their effectiveness due to the phenomenon of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

    AMR occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi etc. become resistant to the active medicine or the particular antimicrobial drug that it was originally susceptible to. Hence infections caused by these organisms become difficult to treat. This phenomenon in which microorganisms become resistant to drugs used to kill them or control their growth has been found to be a natural process, which can also be managed such that antimicrobial agents can be preserved for treatment of infections.

    AMR affects every country including Ghana and every person who would require treatment from infections. This makes the management of AMR a serious issue for all.

    Research has revealed that the misuse of antimicrobial medicines is a major contributor to the development of antimicrobial resistance. This implies that everybody has a role to play in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. Such practices as sharing prescribed antibiotics with other people, self-medication with antibiotics, stopping treatment with antibiotics midway when you feel better, not storing antibiotics properly, etc. must be frowned upon and stopped.

    It is also clear that not many new antimicrobials are being developed. And sometimes after huge investments to develop a new antimicrobial, microorganisms get resistant in a very short period of time, eroding all the investment made. This implies that society and individuals must collectively be good stewards of existing antimicrobial medicines for current and future generations.

    The implications of AMR are potentially untreatable infections, prolonged, expensive and more challenging treatment alternatives, excessive burden on social health interventions like health insurance, strain on family and on limited health resources, decrease in man-hours and hence productivity, increase morbidity and mortality to mention but a few.

    The Ministry of Health (MOH) has made efforts to help mitigate the impact of AMR on the health of Ghanaians as well as the health system in Ghana. The MOH inaugurated the Ghana AMR Stakeholder Platform in 2011 to develop the needed interventions necessary to manage AMR in Ghana. Members of this platform are drawn from the three main sectors; human health, animal health and the environment. The MOH also embraced the Action on Antibiotic Resistance project (ReAct; an international NGO at the forefront on the fight against resistance), to support national efforts at combating AMR. These have led to the development of a multi-sectorial Antimicrobial Use and Resistance Policy in ‘one-health’, with a 5-year National Action Plan, modeled on the Global Action Plan. This plan seeks to bring together all stakeholders who are affected in any way by AMR to work together in a concerted effort towards health, food and environmental safety. 

    These interventions are intended to slow the development as well as minimize the effect and spread of AMR. It is important that the efforts of government are supported by the efforts of every person living in Ghana to help protect the health of the population in Ghana.

    This month as we create awareness on antimicrobials, it is important to bring issues that promote the responsible use of antimicrobials to preserve their effectiveness. We should only use antimicrobials when prescribed by a certified health professional and not demand for them. Do not share your antibiotics,  follow the directions on your medication and also practice regular hand washing.

    Health professionals should practice infection prevention and control, educate clients on their medicines, prescribe antibiotics only when needed, adhere to standard treatments as well as promote the use of vaccines.

    Farmers and food producers can help by only using antimicrobials when prescribed to treat farm animals and not for routine use to promote growth.

    Using antimicrobials irresponsibly promotes antimicrobial resistance. Think twice,  and always seek professional advice from a qualified health professional before using antimicrobials.

    This would go a long way to preserve this very important group of medicines.

     

    The above article was drafted and published on behalf of the Ministry of Health as part of efforts aimed at creating awareness on antimicrobial resistance during this year's World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) which falls from 13th to 19th November. For further information, please contact:

    Ministry of Health

    Pharmacy Unit

    Ghana.