UNITED TO PRESERVE ANTIMICROBIALS
World Antibiotics Awareness Week 2020 (18th-24th November, 2020)
We can’t afford to cede this vantage point to the minions of the microbial world, the quantum leap of progress engendered by one of the most providential lucky accidents in the history of Medicine— the discovery of Penicillin by Alexander Fleming in 1928 (1). Ever since, with the development of more novel and effective antibiotics coupled with mass production, man has been able to save millions of lives via the use of antibiotics in treating countless hitherto fatal infections and perform surgeries and other invasive procedures free of microbial encroachments. Antibiotics are also used in fighting diseases in plants and animals, which has helped boost agriculture and food production and diminish zoonoses and overall have improved life expectancy in humans. Alas, the gains have plateaued and started to decline with the emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) where some pathogens have become insensitive to the action of antibiotics making the treatment of infectious diseases difficult. For example, Multiple Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR TB) has been posing serious challenges to effective treatment of Tuberculosis and accounts for a significant percentage of the deaths from the disease.
Furthermore, this problem is not peculiar to antibiotics (i.e. specific agents used to treat bacterial infections) but extends to the entire group of antimicrobial agents including antifungal, antiviral, antiprotozoan and anthelminthic agents. The rising threats of AMR have been attributed to overuse or misuse of antimicrobial agents in humans, animals and agriculture plus poor sanitation and hygiene and reduced access to clean, safe water in some parts of the world. Compounding this problem of AMR is the reduction in frequency of discovery of new antimicrobial agents in recent times, and this leaves us with fewer options than to protect the efficacy of the ones at hand.
In accordance, to combat this growing challenge of AMR, a global action plan was endorsed at the 68th World Health Assembly in 2015. A key objective in the plan is to improve the awareness and understanding of AMR through effective communication, education and training. And one of the executions of this objective is the establishment of the World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW), which is aimed at calling to action the general public, health workers, governments and policy makers in the fight against global AMR via all-encompassing weeklong campaigns.
More to this, in May 2020, the Tripartite Organizations (the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)) agreed to expand the focus of WAAW from “Antibiotics” to “Antimicrobials”, so as to facilitate multiple stakeholders engagement and support One Health Approach for a comprehensive global response. Hence, the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) was slated 18th to 24th of November, to continue as such every year, and the commemoration for the year being captioned: Antimicrobials: Handle with Care. The human health sector of WAAW is thus themed: United to Preserve Antimicrobials. (2)
Given the looming danger AMR poses to the future of medicine and our individual and collective health, there is no better time for us to unite and preserve our antimicrobials, for they are treasures we can’t afford to lose.
In the same vein, IPSF-AfRO in our mission to promote public health in Africa is at the vanguard in the fight against AMR. In collaboration with Ducit Blue Foundation, we will be holding a 3-month internship programme on AMR management in the sub-saharan context for selected participants. This internship training starts by December and runs till February and is set to birth a new set of seasoned and equipped antimicrobial stewards in our pharmaceutical workforce. Also, we are championing this year’s WAAW campaign, as it is a full war on AMR. And as we communicate via our promotional materials, we are counting on you for the best dissemination of the information to everyone within your vicinity.
Furthermore, we’ve organized a webinar series on the same topic in English and French. The English section is to be facilitated by our eminent speaker Pharm Mrs Phumzile Skosana (Lecturer and PhD Candidate, Sefako Magkatho University, School of Pharmacy) at 17:00 GMT+0 on the 19th November and the French section by our erudite Prof. Abdoul Salam Ouedraogo at 20:00 on the 21st of November, 2020. You are enjoined to attend and invite others to do the same en masse.
The message is simple and the goal achievable: let’s unite to preserve antimicrobials!
- Microbiology Society. (2012) History of Antibiotics. Available at: https://microbiologysociety.org/members-outreach-resources/outreach-resources/antibiotics-unearthed/antibiotics-and-antibiotic-resistance/the-history-of-antibiotics.html
- WHO (2020). World Antimicrobial Awareness Week 2020. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2020/11/18/default-calendar/world-antimicrobial-awareness-week-2020