AFRICA - Antibiotic resistance, a hidden scourge worldwide, particularly affects sub-Saharan Africa

Saturday, 22 January 2022 healthcare  

Rome (Agenzia Fides) - More and more infections, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, bloodstream infections and gonorrhea, have become more difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat due to antimicrobial resistance (AMR). In recent years, therefore, a wide range of antibiotics have proved ineffective in treating patients. According to data from a recent study published by Lancet journal, one and a half million deaths per year are directly attributable to AMR, which is therefore a leading cause of death globally, exceeding some diseases such as HIV/Aids or malaria.
When looking at sub-Saharan Africa, the paper shows that the region faces the highest burden of AMR, with 255,000 deaths attributable to drug-resistance in 2019, and a particularly high number from vaccine preventable pneumococcal bacterial disease. Shockingly, around half of total deaths were in children under the age of five.
Across the region, there are several drivers of AMR – with misuse and overuse of antibiotics for both patients, animals and food production playing a central role. In many communities across Africa, first-line antibiotics can easily be purchased without a prescription from both legal and illegal outlets. Furthermore, heath systems lack the right tools to improve diagnostics as well as access to effective and quality-assured second-line antibiotics, meaning that doctors and nurses are left powerless to treat common infections.
Firstly, the continent needs better stewardship to encourage more thoughtful use of antimicrobial treatments – expanding access to lifesaving antibiotics where needed and minimising use where they are not necessary. We also must take greater action to monitor and control infection nationally and within individual hospitals, as well as continue to invest in strengthening our healthcare infrastructure so that we can stop and treat infections before they threaten patients lives (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 22/1/2022)