CARPHA and Public Health England Tackle the Threat of Antimicrobial Drug Resistance in the Region

Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, December 10, 2014:  “Antimicrobial resistance threatens a return to the pre-antibiotic era when common infections and simple injuries often cause death.” This World Health Organization statement was reinforced by the Executive Director of the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), Dr C. James Hospedales, at the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Laboratory Twinning Workshop on Combatting Antimicrobial Resistance in the Caribbean

The two-day meeting, December 9-10, jointly hosted by CARPHA and the Public Health England (PHE) brings together regional health officers with an interest in reducing the threat of antimicrobial resistance in the Region, thereby improving patient care and decreasing unnecessary costs.  Antimicrobial resistance is resistance of a germ to a drug that was originally effective for its treatment.

CARPHA and the PHE have combined their efforts to strengthen public health laboratories in in the Region through a twinning and partnership initiative to share expertise and knowledge in the area of antimicrobial resistance.  This is necessary as a global and multisectoral approach is needed to combat the threat.   Professor Anthony Kessel, Director of International Public Health at PHE, joined the meeting virtually, and noted that “The battle against antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is faced in every country and therefore requires a combined response.”

Antimicrobial resistance is made worse by the inappropriate use of medicines which provides conditions for resistant microorganisms to emerge and spread, one way this can occur is when patients do not take the full course of a prescribed antimicrobial or when poor quality antimicrobials are used.  Dr Hospedales made the point that “drug resistance to common diseases is increasing and is a threat to health and increased hospital cost.”

In light of this, Dr Hospedales believes that the threat of AMR must be dealt with immediately as it risks the health care gains already made by society. Dr Hospedales further indicated, “We need to strengthen physician’s prescribing habits and education to patients on the importance of taking medicines as prescribed.  The Pan American Health Organization Representative for Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Theodore- Gandi, also present at the opening ceremony, categorically stated “AMR is no longer a threat in to the future, it is a very present reality that increases the cost of health care and has the potential to damage heath security.”

Noting that “Physicians are the gatekeepers of antibiotic use,” the Minister of Health of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Fuad Khan, added that his Ministry with CARPHA’s assistance would be engaging in a public education campaign on the use of antibiotics.  He further stated “Proper hygiene and hand washing are simple prevention strategies that can be used against AMR.”

In an effort to address issues relating to AMR, participants of the workshop would be looking at ways to:

  • raise awareness of AMR and strengthen coordination with key stakeholders in the Caribbean;
  • determine opportunities to build and strengthen networks;
  • build a shared understanding of the AMR situation in the Caribbean and the opportunities for mitigating and overcoming the broad based threats and challenges of AMR
  • identify the initial key steps required to strengthen public health microbiology laboratories, laboratory based data quality, surveillance capacity, epidemiological expertise, prevention and control of health care associated infections, and antimicrobial stewardship; and
  • develop a practical roadmap for implementation and coordination of activities to combat AMR in the Caribbean.

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