27 September, 2020, 5:15 am Central - 20°C Rain

'Superbugs' a far greater risk than COVID-19 in Pacific, scientist warns
3-year study into drug-resistant bacteria about to begin in Fiji

'Superbugs' a far greater risk than COVID-19 in Pacific, scientist warns

3-year study into drug-resistant bacteria about to begin in Fiji

By Rashika Kumar
Friday 11/09/2020

The emergence of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), including drug-resistant bacteria, or “superbugs”, pose far greater risks to human health than COVID-19, threatening to put modern medicine “back into the dark ages”, an Australian scientist has warned, ahead of a three-year study into drug-resistant bacteria in Fiji.

Dr Paul De Barro, biosecurity research director at Australia’s national science agency, the CSIRO, told The Guardian that If you thought COVID-19 was bad, you don’t want anti-microbial resistance.

He say he does not think he is exaggerating to say it’s the biggest human health threat, bar none and COVID-19 is not anywhere near the potential impact of AMR.

WHO warns overuse of antibiotics for COVID-19 will cause more deaths

While AMR is an emerging public health threat across the globe, in the Pacific, where the risk of the problem is acute, drug-resistant bacteria could stretch the region’s fragile health systems beyond breaking point.

An article in the BMJ Global Health journal reported there was little official health data – and low levels of public knowledge - around antimicrobial resistance in the Pacific, and that high rates of infectious disease and antibiotic prescription were driving up risks.

“A challenge for Pacific island countries and territories is trying to curtail antimicrobial excess, without jeopardising antimicrobial access for those who need them,” the paper argued.

Fiji, despite a population of less than a million people, has one of the highest rates of bacterial infections in the world. The country also has high levels of tuberculosis in animals and humans, and its hospitals perform, on average, two diabetic amputations every day, all of which drives the use of antibiotics.

Across the archipelago nation, many antibiotics are used across both human and animal populations, increasing the risk of resistant bacteria developing.

Last month, Fiji’s government announced that 10 people had died from leptospirosis, a bacterial infection that affects both animals and humans, while thousands more were infected.

Australia’s CSIRO has begun a three-year study in Fiji, alongside the government of Fiji’s national antimicrobial resistance committee and universities across Australia and the Pacific, to identify the emergence of superbugs in Fiij, analysing data from hospital pathology labs, farms contaminated with pharmaceuticals, and in the general environment, seeking to identify AMR hotspots and emerging trends.

The global public health ramifications of the widespread emergency of drug-resistant bacteria are immense.

De Barro says that If you consider how antibiotics now play a role in virtually every part of our health system: simple things like scratches could kill you, childbirth could kill you, cancer treatment, major surgeries, diabetes, in the background in all of these, is often the use of antibiotics.

He says that will all become very very challenging, if you are doing it in an environment where the antibiotics you use no longer work.

The doctor adds that there will be massive pressure on the health system – exactly the sort of things you are seeing with COVID-19 – think about intensive care units, hospital stays, access to medical treatment outside of the hospital system, the use of antibiotics in nursing, in treating pneumonia, all of these come into play.

Social distancing can’t help with AMR: bacteria exist in food, water, and air, they are all around on everyday surfaces.

Dr Donald Wilson, associate dean at the Fiji National University’s College of Medicine, said the issue could not be ignored any longer “or there will be more people getting sick and we don’t have the right medicines to treat them”.

Already, antibiotic resistance is estimated to cause at least 700,000 deaths globally a year - though this is likely a severe underestimate. That figure has been projected to reach 10 million deaths annually without intervention.

Exacerbating that trend, the increased use of antibiotics to combat the COVID-19 pandemic will strengthen bacterial resistance and ultimately lead to more deaths during the crisis and beyond, the World Health Organization has warned.

Three hundred and fifty million deaths could be caused by AMR by 2050, the WHO has estimated, while the economic cost is predicted to reach US$1.35tr over the next 10 years in the western Pacific region alone.

Wilson says the longer the issue remains unaddressed, the greater the cost in money and human lives.

He adds that for instance, they have identified people who have a multi-drug-resistant form of tuberculosis and need newer, stronger medication for a longer period of time and those stronger antibiotics are more expensive.

[Source: The Guardian]

Stay tuned for the latest news on our radio stations

CFL radio frequencies
Pollution in Suva
Serious concerns raised as research shows microplastic in fish and other seafood sources in ...
4 days ago

RKS students stage protests against their principal
Akbar says they hope to resume classes at RKS on Monday but this will depend on the recommendations by the investigating ...
19 days ago

Fiji Airways In Depth
Fiji Airways extends the cancellation of scheduled international flights to September.Read the full coverage ...
33 days ago
Good things in Fiji were here long before 2006 - Prasad
National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad has reminded the current leaders of the country that Fiji’s history did not begin in 2006. ...
11 hours ago
SODELPA hopes to field more women candidates in 2022
SODELPA Leader Sitiveni Rabuka says SODELPA hopes to field more women candidates and help them to get into Parliament in 2022. He says while the ...
10 hours ago

SODELPA Management Board approves final selection process for Leader & Deputy Party Leader
The SODELPA Management Board has approved the final selection process for Party Leader and Deputy Party Leader after a meeting at Studio Six ...
10 hours ago

WHO warns two million deaths 'very likely' even with vaccine
The World Health Organisation has warned the global coronavirus death toll could hit two million before an effective vaccine is widely used. The ...
12 hours ago

Police White to face Tabadamu in Fiji Bitter Marist 7s final
Police White will face Tabadamu 1 in the final of the 44th Fiji Bitter Marist 7s at the ANZ Stadium tonight. Police White - the tournament’s ...
13 hours ago

Waqavonovono raises $1,700 for WOWS Kids Fiji through Shave It or Save It campaign
WOWS Kids Fiji Ambassador Pita Waqavonovono raised $1,700 as part of the Shave It or Save It campaign and handed over the money to WOWS Kids Fiji ...
13 hours ago