Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley wants to see the response to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) incorporated in future pandemic response and preparedness plans.
Speaking virtually at the 88th General Session of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) recently, Ms. Mottley said the challenges with regard to the AMR threat were complex and multi-faceted, but were not insurmountable once the globe acted in solidarity.
The Prime Minister continued: “We can begin by integrating the response to AMR in future pandemic response plans and into preparedness plans by encouraging changes in individual behaviours, as it relates to the use and overuse of antibiotics, and by avoiding foods and other animal products that are as a result of improper husbandry practices.
“Member countries must also follow the OIE guidelines on the prudent use of antimicrobials. What is needed more than ever is simple effective communication and absolute political leadership.”
Ms. Mottley suggested that responsible, sustainable access to and use of antimicrobials; the promotion of vaccines where possible; the implementation of biosecurity measures on farms, and the use of sanitary and responsible farming practices were effective measures that must be employed to mitigate against drug resistant infections.
She pointed out that it was in the interest of Barbados and the wider Caribbean to play a pre-emptive role in controlling animal health in public health policies and practices.
She noted that through strict adherence to the OIE standards and Barbados’ emphasis on strong border biosecurity, the country had been able to prevent the entry of most of the major animal diseases.
“However, regrettably, it may only be a matter of time when we have to face another pandemic or indeed an outbreak of a major animal disease. It is therefore in our interest to learn from the lessons of this particular pandemic and to strengthen our disease surveillance capacity and our emergency response plans in order to rapidly diagnose and effectively respond to any future animal and zoonotic disease threats,” she opined.
Ms. Mottley indicated that the One Health approach was needed in the global effort to combat AMR. She stated that the overuse and abuse of antimicrobials in humans, animals and agriculture had driven up resistance in the microorganisms that these medicines were meant to fight.
The lack of effective regulation, the excessive use of antibiotics as growth promoters in animals and the rise in counterfeit antimicrobials further exacerbated the situation, she added.
AMR, she explained, threatens to make redundant the medicines relied on to keep humans, animals and plants healthy. “This threat is not an academic one but a real threat, as our public health and veterinary laboratories are regularly detecting antibiotic resistant strains of common bacterial pathogens.
“We are already running out of effective treatments for several common infectious, drug resistant diseases, with few… replacements in the pipeline. In short, we run the risk of reversing a century of medical progress; a century of progress equally in our treatment of animals,” she observed.
Ms. Mottley explained that through the OIE’s Regional Office in Buenos Aires, veterinary services collaborated with a network of experts from around the world, who provided technical advice and recommendations on how to deal with the effects of the recent ash, from St. Vincent’s La Soufriere volcano, on livestock.
She added that valuable information had been provided, and suggested the OIE follow this example in working with the collaborating centres, especially those for veterinary emergencies, disaster management and animal welfare, to continue to help countries affected by disasters.