Taking on Antimicrobial Resistance

The One Health Workforce project stresses the importance of the prevention of AMR in global health trainings.

Since the first medical use of penicillin in 1942, antibiotics and other antimicrobials have been saving the lives of both humans and animals. While antimicrobials to treat infectious diseases were being developed, a natural phenomenon started to occur where certain bacteria, parasites, and fungi became resistant — also known as antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

AMR is defined as the “resistance of a microorganism to an antimicrobial drug that was originally effective for treatment of infections caused by it” by the World Health Organization. This threat to our global health reduces our capacity to treat common illnesses, leaving populations vulnerable to diseases once thought treatable.

Although AMR occurs naturally, there are a number of preventative actions that health workers should implement to slow this process. The global health workforce needs to not only properly prescribe and distribute antibiotics, but also provide AMR awareness to their patients and animal owners.

The USAID One Health Workforce project currently supports a number of activities that focus on training the current and future health workforce about the importance of mitigating antimicrobial resistance. The concept is often incorporated into One Health trainings and workshops where the One Health University Network facilitators discuss the risks of AMR and how to address AMR with a One Health approach.

In 2016, a team at the One Health Central and Eastern Africa (OHCEA) university network in the DRC office completed a training guide that will enable trainers to teach current and future One Health workers on the latest information regarding prevention, detection, and response to epidemics and antimicrobial resistance. This comprehensive guide covers deficiencies observed among providers in prevention, early detection, and response to epidemics and outbreaks. Several trainings on the guide are planned to take place over the next year.

Other AMR work in Year 2 integrates AMR issues into activities, particularly in Senegal where experts are incorporating AMR reduction into a Master of Public Health program and a new One Health Student Club at the Ecole Inter-Etats des Sciences et Médecine Vétérinaires will highlight AMR awareness in their community activities.

Looking forward, potential activities for Year 3 address AMR education and awareness as a major need in the One Health workforce. The Thailand One Health University Network (THOHUN) plans to develop materials and implement a training for healthcare workers on the frontlines of antibiotic stewardship — pharmacists and nurse practitioners. The AMR training will be given to 4th year pharmacy students before their first professional clerkship at community hospitals and drugstores. After the training, students will begin pharmacy practice in antibiotic use and be able to instruct patients on the appropriate use of antibiotics in common illnesses.

By training the One Health workforce on AMR, the project hopes that the current and future health workforces in Africa and Southeast Asia will not only properly use antibiotics and instruct patients on AMR, but also see positive change in government policy and academic teaching that addresses the AMR threat.

This story was originally published in the EPT/GHSA Bi-Weekly Update. Questions regarding OHW and our AMR work can be directed to our email at ohw@umn.edu.