UKZN Professor among Experts at Consortium on Antimicrobial Resistance in Africa
The Head of UKZN’s Antimicrobial Research Unit and Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Sabiha Essack, served as an expert in Congo-Brazzaville where the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa recently hosted a Consultative Experts’ Meeting on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance in the African Region.
The meeting addressed the emerging threat of drug resistance (AMR) and its devastating consequences on the continent.
Essack said: ‘The pandemic is a public health threat with extensive health, economic and societal implications because infections caused by resistant bacteria result in a longer duration of illness, higher mortality rates and increased costs associated with alternative treatment.’
AMR was said to be a key obstacle in the successful management of infectious diseases in Africa, where the burden of infectious diseases is high and access to diagnostic services and second-line treatment is scarce.
Essack, who is the College of Health Sciences Dean of Teaching and Learning at UKZN, addressed WHO member states on the nature and extent of the implementation of the WHO Policy Package to Combat AMR in the African region.
According to Essack, African member states have a long way to go in combating AMR. While South Africa had developed a national strategy to address AMR such initiatives were in their infancy in the vast majority of other African countries. ‘It is a given that governments must assume the responsibility for AMR,’ said Essack. ‘Noting that African countries are in disparate stages of readiness, it is important that an independent overarching body like the WHO-Africa Region take leadership in assisting African member states to implement the Policy Package as well as the Global Action Plan.’
There were, she said, models in place. Essack highlighted recent developments in the on-going five-year project between UKZN, Mozambique’s Instituto Superior de Ciencias de Saude, the University of Malawi and the University of Tromso in Norway entitled: “Antimicrobial Stewardship and Conservancy in Africa”. Funded to the amount of 18 000 000 Norwegian Krone by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation’s Higher Education and Research for Development (NORHED) Programme, the project, under the leadership of Essack as principle investigator. The project has an overarching aim of using human capital and research capacity development as a global health priority towards the optimal management of infections in the context of antimicrobial stewardship and conservancy.
‘AMR prevention and containment requires co-ordinated, multi-pronged, multi-stakeholder, multi-disciplinary interventions between public and private sectors underpinned by unequivocal national, regional and international policy frameworks that suspend sectoral interests for public good in the One Health context,’ Essack advised.
The meeting concluded with recommendations listed to both the member states as well as the WHO.
Participants agreed and committed themselves to brief Ministers of Health and other senior officials on the outcomes of the Expert consultations on AMR; ensure appropriate communication for global, regional and national initiatives on AMR to elicit buy in; initiate discussions with ministries and partners to develop and review the national plan on AMR; and to establish collaboration co-ordination mechanism.