Self-prescription, uncontrolled purchase of antibiotics worrying, WHO  

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The World Health Organization has called on countries to discourage self-prescription and uncontrolled purchase of antibiotics from drug vendors to curb antimicrobial resistance in both humans and animals.

According to Dr Victor Yamo, Farming Campaign Manager, World Animal Protection in Kenya, there is need to mobilize action to address one of the world’s most malignant public health threats.

The World Antimicrobial Awareness Week is running through this week starting on Thursday, November 18 to Wednesday, November 24, 2021 and the focus is on spreading awareness about the threat of antimicrobial resistance.

In Kenya, the World Animal Protection has released a report showing that inappropriate use of antimicrobials, especially in animals is worrying not only in the country but globally.

The study done in November and December 2020 consisted of a cross-sectional survey targeting veterinary drug stores (agrovets), pharmacies, farmers, and the public across 19 counties in Kenya to determine the knowledge and practices on antimicrobial resistance.

It attracted a total of 1,142 participants across 19 counties in Kenya and showed that antibiotics were the most sold product in 58 percent of agrovets and 43 percent of pharmacies interviewed.

According to Yamo, antibiotic sales contributed significantly to total revenue in both stores, 38.8 percent in Pharmacies and 30 percent in Agrovets and this contrasts with the low sales of vaccines and other biosecurity measures.

“The main objective of this study was to explore the levels of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) knowledge and prescribing practices among veterinary and human drug vendors, farmers, and the public,” Dr Yamo said during a webinar ahead of the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week.

He noted that during the study, although levels of knowledge on antibiotics and AMR were relatively evident, improper practices were evident in all study categories.

For example, he said that self-prescription, failure to complete prescribed dose and sharing of antibiotics was reported.

“Every time an antibiotic is given to an animal or consumed by a human, basically it is an opportunity for that bacteria present to get used to that antibiotic and possibly mutate to be resistant,” he said.

Knowledge and practices related to antibiotics among respondents in the study showed significant gaps and need of an urgent effort to mitigate such practices.

Dairy at 49.6 percent and poultry at 38.9 percent farmers were reported as the most frequent consumers of antibiotics and that the two species are associated with intensive farming systems and also with overuse and misuse of antibiotics to mask poor welfare practices.

Yamo said that a concerted effort is urgently needed to sensitize need for responsible use of antibiotics in human and animal health.

“For instance, farmers need to shift from low welfare practices in which antibiotics are misused to cover up poor welfare, and adopt higher animal welfare standards that ensure animals live a healthy life,” he said .

Dr Yamo noted that despite having had World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) since 2016, the level of awareness of this week-long event that runs from 18th to 24th of November every year was found to be low.

Eighty-one percent of the general public interviewed and 80 percent of farmers were not aware of WAAW and what this means, Dr Yamo said and added that effort is required for a comprehensive action during this year’s WAAW in human and animal health as we draw lessons from just ending National Action Plan for the reduction of AMR next year.

The 2021 theme, Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance, calls on One Health stakeholders, policymakers, health care providers, and the general public to be Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Awareness champions.

In June 2017, Kenya published its National Action Plan on Prevention and Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance 2017 – 2022 which embraces interdisciplinary collaborations through a One Health platform, where local institutions worked together with academia and stakeholders to provide a policy framework that concentrates on the containment of emergent resistant bacteria.

The main objectives of the plan are focused on improving awareness and understanding of AMR, strengthening surveillance and research programmes, improving sanitation, hygiene and preventive measures, optimizing use of antimicrobials in animals and humans, and developing an economic case which accounts for the country needs and for a sustainable investment on medicines, diagnostics, vaccines and other interventions.

Last year, the government further launched an AMR Surveillance Training curriculum together with the training manuals for facilitators and participants that will provide a timely tool to guide systematic strengthening of knowledge and skills development among all individuals involved in AMR prevention and control including leadership and governance, clinical practice and laboratory detection, and surveillance data management in both the human and animal health sectors.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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