About 700,000 people die annually due to drug resistance globally and the number is expected to increase to 10 million people annually by 2050, a health expert has warned.
A Kenya health ministry official in charge of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), Dr Evelyn Wesangula said cases of resistance have become more common not just in Kenya but in the sub-Saharan Africa region.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that the prospect of the world entering a ‘post-antibiotic era’, where common infections can no longer be cured, is real.
Speaking during a MESHA conference held on Thursday at Ngong Hills Hotel, Dr Wesangula said increased cases of drug resistance is posing a threat to the significant gains made in the fight against diseases, a health expert has warned.
While there are many causes of antimicrobial resistance, Dr Wesangula singled out both over use and underuse of the antibiotics as some issues which led to this public health concern.
She said the free-for all access of drugs in pharmacies, drugstores and market places, unregulated prescription in health facilities and from animals to humans as among causes for resistance.
Dr Wesangula said apart from long hospitalisation due to drugs resistance many lives are lost– a situation which should compel governments to act.
“It is a problem with a wide range of consequences. Those who have resistance will face long hospitalisation or will have to try different medicines which is costly.
“This also has an implication on their personal economy and development. If you come to think of sub-saharan region, we have a higher disease burden hence resistance to antibiotics must be a serious cause for worry.” she explained.
According to WHO, AMR occurs when micro-organisms (bacteria, fungi and viruses) change when they are exposed to drugs such as antibiotics leading to prolonged untreated illnesses.
Dr. Wesangula, there is need to intensify efforts such as enforcement of the law to have adhered to prescription procedures for antibiotics.
Like, Kenya, Malawi has similar challenges such as free – for – all access to antibiotics due to weak enforcement mechanisms of the law.
But National Coordinator for AMR in the Ministry of Health in Malawi, Dr Watipaso Kasambara said one strategy they have employed is raising public awareness on the gravity of drug resistance as well as equipping medical staff with appropriate knowledge so as to manage prescription of antibiotics in hospitals among other interventions.
“Creation of a special unit to look at AMR is one effort by the Malawi government which demonstrates commitment in dealing with the problem at hand,” according to Dr Kasambara.