Since the discovery of penicillin more than 60 years ago, antimicrobial drugs have been considered the solution to curing all infections, despite not always being used appropriately. This has resulted in antimicrobial resistance.
AMR happens when microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses change and become resistant to the antimicrobials used to treat the infections they cause. Today, a wide variety of infectious pathogens are resistant to clinically useful antibiotics. In the Pacific, health care systems are overburdened by the impact of AMR.
To address the situation, Pacific island countries and areas have requested WHO support in developing national action plans. The 2014 Action Agenda for AMR in the Western Pacific Region and 2015 WHO Global Action Plan on AMR have been endorsed to safeguard the effectiveness of antimicrobials and to facilitate the development of new medicines.
Implementing the Action Agenda in the Pacific
WHO provides various forms of technical assistance to help support Pacific countries to implement the Action Agenda for AMR. This includes reviewing infection control policies, developing antibiotic guidelines, and strengthening surveillance, tracking and reporting.
The Cook Islands and Fiji have already launched multisectoral national action plans. This means that different sectors – notably the agricultural and health sectors – work together. The Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Tonga and Samoa are all in the process of developing plans.
Another important campaign in the Pacific is World Antibiotic Awareness Week. This helps to raise awareness about AMR, and twelve Pacific island countries participated in 2016. This aims to deliver three key messages:
- Bacteria – not humans or animals – become resistant to antibiotics;
- Anyone, of any age, in any country can get an antibiotic-resistant infection; and
- Everyone can help reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance.
WHO continues to provide support to Pacific island countries to help prevent and control AMR, and its consequences.
For more information on how to reduce AMR in the Pacific, see POLHN’s free self-paced course on antimicrobial stewardship programs in hospitals.