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Antibiotic-resistant infections a threat to the economy

Globally, humanity’s defences against infection are wearing thinner by the day, as the microbes responsible for giving diseases are increasingly becoming stronger leading to Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). Microbes are germs that causes infectious diseases and can include viruses, bacteria and parasites.

As such, there is need for governments from across the world to find lasting solutions, through research and relevant policy formulation and controls, aimed at averting the potential hazard that AMR pose to their respective public health systems and economies.

For Zimbabwe, the effects and impact of AMR were evident during the 2018 Cholera Outbreak. Zimbabwe experienced a large cholera outbreak, between September 4, 2018, to March 12, 2019, which was caused by a highly resistant Vibrio cholerae strain, to nearly all antibiotics.

This prompted the Government of Zimbabwe to declare a state of emergency. The outbreak strain had 14 additional AMR genes carried on an approximately 160-kb IncA/C2 plasmid, leading to a broader resistance profile.

Management of patients was changed from a cheaper antimicrobial ciprofloxacin to a more expensive one called Azithromycin. Antimicrobial resistant pathogens has negative impact on our economy and quality of life, as well as our health.

On the other hand, the Salmonella Typhi strain presently circulating in Zimbabwe has reduced ciprofloxacin's susceptibility due to an ongoing evolution towards full resistance.

If the existing commonly used antimicrobials continues not to show activity against these microbes, health-care costs will soar, productivity and quality of life will decline as sickness and death ravage the population. The problem demands action on all fronts. The good news is that Zimbabwe is in an ideal position to lead the world away from catastrophe by implementing a logical four-part solution to this impending crisis.

The first step is innovation — to create new ways to beat AMR. The second step is stewardship — being judicious with treatments that still work. The third, surveillance, to track the total and correct use of antimicrobials. Finally, there is need for infection prevention and control.

Fortunately, Zimbabwe is among African countries that have received support from the UK Government’s Fleming Fund having been awarded £4million to develop and implement the National AMR Action Plan activities, particularly strengthening surveillance and quantifying the burden of AMR pathogens.

To this end, a ‘One Health’ approach bringing together various stakeholders from animal, human and environmental health was conceptualised, to lead the country out of this looming crisis as AMR cuts across sectors.

However, there is need to increase awareness and understanding of the devastating consequences that the country may experience if no action is taken.

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