A new study, led by the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) and Research England, has identified some of the key problems surrounding antimicrobial resistance (AMR) across certain parts of Africa, highlighting the need for an interdisciplinary and holistic approach to the threat of AMR in these areas.
AMR occurs when microorganisms (like bacteria, viruses, and parasites) develop or change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs. AMR is a serious threat to global health, as it can impair the ability of healthcare practitioners to treat common infectious diseases. Aside from the health risk created by resistant organisms, AMR is also recognised as a significant threat to the world economy.
The Bloomsbury SET commissioned Prospect IP to produce “East Africa Case Study UK-Africa collaborations in combatting Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)”, a study that explores specific AMR issues and challenges in low and middle-income countries, looking at the status of AMR management in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. It compares their progress at a national level, in line with the WHO Global Action Plan.
The emergence and spread of infectious diseases depend on complex interactions between humans and animals, their relationship with the environment and socio-economic factors. Knowledge gaps and lack of awareness of these interconnections contribute to the scale of the problem. The inappropriate use of drugs to tackle infectious diseases has led to the increasing burden of AMR which now threatens to undermine previously effective control measures. Low- and middle-income countries are at higher risk of AMR due to the high incidence of infectious diseases and factors such as poor sanitation and contaminated water, limited access to antibiotics, weak health systems and underdeveloped antibiotic stewardship.
Pandemic restrictions limited the opportunities for focus group activities. Nonetheless, by using a combination of interviews and questionnaires, insights were obtained from key stakeholders in AMR management in 11 UK academic institutions and researchers, policymakers and funders in East Africa.
The study identified the need to build capability in LMIC in areas such as AMR awareness, stewardship programmes, socio-economic impact, communication and stakeholder engagement. These findings align with the AMR Funders’ Forum ‘Research Capacity and Skills Review’, published in 2018. Adoption of technological solutions for infectious diseases and AMR will also require a different set of skills, data integration, more effective communication and interdisciplinary approaches with greater involvement of the many different stakeholders.
Professor Claire Heffernan, Director of the London International Development Centre (LIDC) and Professor of International Development at The Royal Veterinary College, said: “This report is both relevant and timely as we consider the global impact of infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance, following the events of 2020. By exploring knowledge exchange activities in the East Africa region, it provides useful insight to the development of future initiatives, and outlines pathways and pipelines for further research and collaboration in this space.”
The East Africa Case Study provides informative appendices that serve as a directory of 28 collaborative projects highlighting the key players and partners in the UK and Africa, and funding provided by schemes such as the Fleming Fund, a £265 million UK aid programme supporting 24 countries across Africa and Asia to tackle AMR. This is part of a major funding initiative from UK Government departments described in the UKCDR’s report on ‘Antimicrobial Resistance in International Development: UK Research Funding Landscape’, published in 2019.
With Government funding for international development now under review, the East Africa Case Study is timely in highlighting the ongoing priorities and future needs.