By John Cassim
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AA) – Zimbabwe’s government has declared war on antimicrobial resistance in both humans and animals, with the help of powerful international partners.
The Southern African country’s One Health Antimicrobial Resistance National Action Plan, developed at a workshop starting Wednesday in cooperation the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), represents an international first.
“Only four countries in the world – namely Kenya, Ghana, Cambodia, and Zimbabwe – are currently developing their antimicrobial resistance action plans, courtesy of funding from the Fleming Fund [a UK government fund to fight drug-resistant infection] and FAO,” Dr. Pamela Woods, national project coordinator for antimicrobial resistance in agriculture, livestock production, food and fisheries, told the workshop in Harare.
Antimicrobial is a general term for drugs, chemicals, or other substances that either kill or slow the growth of microbes, including antibacterial drugs, antiviral drugs, antifungal agents, and antiparisitic drugs.
Although the agents are essential for treating diseases, their overuse and misuse can result in the emergence of bacteria resistance.
According to the 84th General Session World Assembly of the World Organization for Animal Health held in Paris this May, 60 percent of human pathogens come originally from animals, posing a serious threat to the treatment of both animal and human diseases.
Zimbabwe’s Deputy Health Minister Aldrin Musiiwa explained why a joint approach to the fight against resistance in both humans and animals is essential.
“The increasing overuse and misuse of antimicrobials whether in a health institution or by individuals for conditions that don’t require that they be prescribed has resulted in this resistance. Antimicrobial resistance is like a time bomb, soon going to be causing more deaths than the HIV pandemic and TB infections combined in Sub-Sahara if left unattended,” he warned.
“We have noted emerging cases of multiple drug resistance to TB drugs, malaria medicines, and first-line and second-line medicines for HIV such that we have been forced to change to more expensive medicines,” he added.
Addressing delegates at the workshop, Health Ministry Secretary Dr. Gerald Gwinj said resistant bacteria arising in either humans or animals may be the same.
He said, “Addressing the rising threat of AMR requires a holistic and multisectoral ‘One Health’ approach because antimicrobials used to treat various infectious diseases in animals may be the same or similar to those used in humans.
“Resistant bacteria arising either in humans, animals or environment may spread from one to another, and from one country to another, and they do not recognize geographic or human and animal borders.”
Newman Madzikwa, a pharmaceuticals expert, explained that due to economic hardship many people can no longer afford consultation fees in hospital such that a number of people are now using non-prescribed medicines in Zimbabwe “as a quick fix to infections in both humans and animals.”