By Magezi Kiriinjju
On November ,24 2022, Uganda joined the rest of the world to commemorate “World Antimicrobial
awareness Week 2022” held in Nakasongola district.
While the menace of the growing ineffectiveness of antibiotics affects humans, animals and plants, the three day Nakasogola event concentrated more on farmers because the area is a cattle corridor that produces meat, milk and other animal products that are likely conduits of AMR spread.
But what is antimicrobial resistance?
For many ordinary folks including myself, these words can leave one perplexed. For starters, ‘Antimicrobials” are medicines or drugs that help stop the growth and spread of microbes that could harm a person, an animal or a plant.
They help to clean and disinfect our homes, medical facilities and public spaces.
On the other hand, microbes are tiny living things that are found all around us in the water, air and soil and are too small to be seen by the naked eye.
A human body is home to millions of these microbes, also called microorganisms. While some of these microbes are important for our health, most of them make us sick. Some of the most common types of microbes are bacteria, viruses, protozoa, parasites and fungi.
Therefore; ‘antimicrobial resistance’ happens when microbes like bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi develop the ability to defeat the drugs designed to kill them. It means diminished efficacy of the drugs and antibiotics to treat ailments affecting humans, animals and plants.
The consequences of antimicrobial resistance on health and healthcare systems are ominous.
It has been estimated that multi-drug resistant infections cause nearly 700,000 deaths worldwide annually. Without remedy, it is projected that the burden of deaths globally from antimicrobial resistance could reach 10 million annually by 2050.
Oour actions of abuse and misuse of antibiotics have increased microbes’ resistance to effects of medication. Self-medication is one the most common form of misuse and abuse, we take antibiotics without a doctor’s prescription.
This leads to using inappropriate drugs and taking an overdose or underdose.
Taking antibiotics when one feels weak, ill or a simple headache that may ordinarily require one to rest or take a lot of water.
This leads to germs getting familiar with the drugs and eventually making them less effective. That is why its very important to use these medicines after consulting a physician or a veterinary doctor.
Another cause of antimicrobial resistance is sharing of medicines by patients which alters dosage of medication as prescribed by a doctor.
This makes microbes resurge with vengeance and treatment may require much larger dosage or changing the prescription completely. It is very crucial to adhere to one’s dose as has been prescribed by a physician.
Poor hygiene is another reason why antibiotics are losing their efficacy, this happens when they are either poorly handled leading to contamination and or when the patient is reinfecting during treatment.
Traveling has also been sighted to spread rare germs to communities whose immunity is susceptible to these unfamiliar germs and local doctors may not be able to diagnose them correctly leading to maltreatment.
Farmers have been found of administering medications to their animals without consulting veterinary doctors. The result is that either animals end up being given an underdose or overdose at best and or a completely wrong treatment at worst. Much worse, farmers tend to ignore the advice of veterinary doctors not to sell animal products within a certain period after administering drugs to their flock.
They don’t observe the withdraw period in which the drugs are absorbed by animal’s systems. It is the same story in gardens, farmers spray their foods without consulting agronomists or botanists, their harvests end on the market with fresh insecticides and fungicides which is a health hazard to humans.
Constant consumption of contaminated foods like meat, milk and tomatoes eventually leads to sickness that may be resistant to known antibiotics.
Some unscrupulous farmers have been found to feed their animals on antibiotics so they grow fatter and faster. This is very dangerous to human beings who consume these animal products, the residuals of antibiotics end up in their systems. It also creates resistance in animals as well.
Another unfortunate but avoidable cause of antimicrobial resistance are pharmacists and drug dispensers who sell drugs over the counter without compelling patients and farmers to present prescriptions from physicians and veterinary doctors. They do it of course to make money but much worse, many are ignorant about the monster called antimicrobial resistance.
However, the menace of antimicrobial resistance is not yet out of control, it can be curbed and it must be stopped in its trucks.
Efforts to nip it in the bud have already started, at international level, it’s being addressed through a one health approach in which the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Health Organization and the World Organisation for Animal Health have teamed up to tackle it concurrently.
These organisations have joined forces to promote prudent use of antimicrobials within the population, best practices among health workers and policy makers in order to overcome the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections.
At national level, Uganda has embarked on an awareness campaign through ministry of health after realizing that ignorance is the biggest threat.
Government is educating farmers to implement best practices in agriculture and better management of treatment methods of their animals.
The use of antibiotics has changed our lives, we are healthier and live longer. Formally fatal diseases can now be cured through an antibiotic therapy prescribed by the doctor. And nobody wants this to change, it would be Armageddon to humanity.
Magezi Kiriinjju works at the Government Citizen Interaction Centre.
He is also a member of Campfire Ideological Sturdy Group.