CPS supports WHO efforts for R&D in developing new antibiotics

Minister of Health, Social Affairs and Labour Emil Lee

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – The United Nations (UN) health agency, the World Health Organization (WHO), in the latter part of 2016 kicked off a campaign to make antibiotic resistance a globally recognized health issue and to raise awareness of the need to protect antibiotics through appropriate use.

The WHO just recently published its first ever list of antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens” – a catalogue of 12 families of bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health.

The list was drawn up in a bid to guide and promote research and development (R&D) of new antibiotics, as part of WHO’s efforts to address growing global resistance to antimicrobial medicines.

The WHO list is divided into three categories according to the urgency of need for new antibiotics: critical, high and medium priority.

The most critical group of all includes multidrug resistant bacteria that pose a particular threat in hospitals, nursing homes, and among patients whose care requires devices such as ventilators and blood catheters. They include Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and various Enterobacteriaceae (including Klebsiella, E. coli, Serratia, and Proteus). They can cause severe and often deadly infections such as bloodstream infections and pneumonia.

These bacteria have become resistant to a large number of antibiotics, including carbapenems and third generation cephalosporins – the best available antibiotics for treating multi-drug resistant bacteria.

The second and third tiers in the list – the high and medium priority categories – contain other increasingly drug-resistant bacteria that cause more common diseases such as gonorrhoea and food poisoning caused by salmonella.

Representatives from Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department in the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour (Ministry VSA), last October attended a workshop on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in Trinidad & Tobago where discussions and guidance was provided to countries in the region developing their respective National AMR Plan.

AMR happens when microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs such as antibiotics, antifungals, and antivirals.

Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are sometimes referred to as “superbugs.”  Medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others.

Antimicrobial resistance is a global concern because new resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading globally, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases, resulting in prolonged illness, disability, and death.

Without effective antimicrobials for prevention and treatment of infections, medical procedures such as organ transplantation, cancer chemotherapy, diabetes management and major surgery (for example, caesarean sections or hip replacements) become very high risk.

The WHO approach to the resistance problems is that “All countries need national action plans on AMR.”

Countries should have a National AMR Plan by May 2017.  CPS is currently coordinating the multi sectoral discussions for Sint Maarten to carry out the WHO/Pan American Health Organization request and assist in developing a National AMR Action Plan (NAP).

CPS supports efforts underway by the WHO to further profile the challenges that exist where new antibiotics are needed.  Sint Maarten’s medical care system is also impacted by the rise in “superbugs” and therefore the need for the country to also have a NAP plan in place describing the country’s strategic approach to manage AMR considering the resource limitations.