By Pauline Achieng’ Tom | @pauline_tom
Kenyans are warned against the use of antibiotics unless prescribed by a physician, while healthcare practitioners challenged to only prescribe antibiotics based on diagnostic evidence.
Speaking at an event mark this years’ World Antimicrobial Awareness Week at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH), Ministry of Health director of Public health, Dr Francis Kuria urged members of the public and physicians to always ensure prudent use of antibiotics as misuse can cause antibiotic resistance.
“Azithromycin is one of the most commonly overused and misused antibiotics in Kenya as it the most sought out over the counter without prescriptions and also overused healthcare settings, its continued (mis)use is a major public health threat,” said Dr Kuria.
Discovery of antibiotics was one of the most celebrated achievements of modern medicine in the 20th century. With the advent of ‘Golden era of antibiotics’, human life-expectancy has significantly increased by the cure of previously fatal infections. However, almost half a century after the introduction of this ‘ arsenal of drugs’, the emergence of stubborn, resistant microbes is the biggest threat we are facing right now.
Antimicrobial resistance is defined as a decrease in susceptibility of a microorganism to an antimicrobial agent to which it was previously sensitive. The World Health Organization (WHO) stress that antimicrobial resistance(AMR) can make common infections harder to treat by accelerating the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death.
AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines, posing a public health threat. It occurs when there is an overuse or misuse of medicines in humans, livestock and agriculture. It can also occur as a result of poor access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.
While the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) called for rational use of antibiotics urging pharmacists to uphold moral and professional obligations while performing their duties. PSK says that inappropriate antibiotics prescriptions and dispensing have increased the risk of AMR and calls for the total implementation of antibiotics’ guidelines.
In 2016 a study revealed that Kenya is experiencing high levels of antibiotic resistance, including high rates of resistance for respiratory, enteric and hospital-acquired infections, indicating that many available antimicrobial regimens such as penicillin and contrimoxalzole are unlikely to be effective against common infections.
Kenya Medical Association (KMA) President Dr Andrew Were Onyino said that there is an urgent need for a multisectoral approach to combat overuse and or misuse of AMR puts everyone at risk. “Drugs are sold and dispensed inappropriately and health care practitioners have a crucial role to play,” he said adding that “AMR awareness prevention and control efforts should begin at medical training levels.”
Dr Ndinda Kusu, country project Director USAID Medicines Technology and Pharmaceutical Services(MTaPS), said that everyone has a responsibility to preserve efficiency and effectiveness of antimicrobials through rational use to protect our patients from multi drug-resistant infections and reduce hospital cost for people being treated for AMR strains thus reducing wastage of resources.
Prof. Titus Munyao Chair Department of Medicine University of Nairobi stressed on the need to intensify antimicrobial stewardship and laboratory in identifying the trends that will aid in prevention and control of resistance.
World Antimicrobial Awareness Week celebrated annually from 18th-24th November highlights growing AMR challenge and encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policymakers to avoid the further emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections.