news Saturday, May 23, 2015 - 05:30


Antimicrobial resistance has been at the heart of this year's World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.  If ignored, this global problem presents a harrowing picture of the future, where people could die from minor wounds. For that reason it has been pushed higher on the WHOs agenda in recent years.

One example of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in which the adverse effects are clear is tuberculosis (TB). The drug-resistant strand of the illness (MDR-TB) is prevalent in former USSR areas, where 60% of cases can be found. MDR-TB resists two of the most important drugs used to treat the disease. Tuberculosis kills one Indian every two minutes.

At the time of writing, a resolution on AMR is being debated by countries seeking better surveillance, but also better access. Director General Margaret Chan called for countries to adopt a global action plan to resist the problem. Assistant Director General Dr Keiji Fukuda praised the leadership shown German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK) David Cameron and United States President Barack Obama for drawing national focus to the problem, and called for other state leaders to follow their example.

Delegations discussed the rate at which doctors, particularly GPs, prescribe antibiotics. Professor Benoit Vallet reinforced that GPs often face 'prescription pressure' from patients to give out antibiotics. President of the WHA Jagat Prakash Nadda (India’s health minister) called for a push to educate the public more on the antimicrobial resistance to help doctors avoid this kind of pressure. Sources told The News Minute (TNM) at the crux of the problem is that there is no reliable data on how bad the situation on the ground is.

Other countries are introducing the concept in schools. One such initiative to educate children from the Belgian Antibiotic Policy Coordination Committee (BAPCOC) was the publication of a special edition of popular comic book 'Luke and Lucy' using storytelling and characters to show children how antimicrobial resistance works. The edition, called 'Auntie Biotica', was made available to attendees at the WHA.

The delegation for South Africa drew attention to the importance of infection prevention as part of preventing antimicrobial resistance. 'Hand washing relays' were held in South Africa to encourage greater public awareness on how to help combat the problem.

The use of antibiotics in animals was heavily discussed. Many expressed concerns on the detrimental impact this has on antimicrobial resistance, particularly when used to help animals grow fatter for use of their meat, rather than health problems. Earlier in the year, fast food chain McDonald's announced they were to stop using antibiotic-fed chickens in their produce. This was referred to as an example of public pressure on corporate companies to become part of the solution to antimicrobial resistance. Read draft resolution here.


Ms. Henderson is a student of journalism at the University of the West England, Bristol, UK.