As the international community marks World Antibiotic Awareness Week, the South African and UK Departments of Health will this week host a regional conference on the surveillance of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The two-day conference will be held at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in Johannesburg on 17 and 18 November 2016. It will bring together Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries to discuss the challenges of AMR surveillance, as well as the resources and regional collaborations available to support improvements in laboratory and surveillance capacity.

AMR is a global threat that requires urgent action by governments and society as a whole. It threatens development and the achievements of modern medicine.

British High Commissioner to South Africa Dame Judith Macgregor said that building on their current memorandum of understanding, the UK and the South African Departments of Health are working in close collaboration to tackle the problem of AMR - a health priority for both.

"Co-hosting the upcoming AMR conference is an example of this joint alignment and effective partnership," said Macgregor.

At the October UN General Assembly, a historic declaration was agreed by member states to combat antimicrobial resistance. The agreement follows a worldwide campaign to highlight the threat posed to modern medicine by antimicrobial resistance.

Every signatory has agreed that drug resistant infections must be tackled as a priority.

The nations have committed to:

o develop surveillance and regulatory systems on the use and sales of antimicrobial medicines for humans and animals;

o encourage innovative ways to develop new antibiotics and improve rapid diagnostics, and

o raise awareness among health professionals and the public on how to prevent drug resistant infections.

The South African national Department of Health has been driving the country's response to AMR since 2013.

In 2014, the department launched the AMR National Strategy Framework 2014 - 2024 to address the concerns and actions required for tackling AMR.

Since then, much has been done to generate surveillance data for both the public and private sectors on resistant organisms in order to visually represent how the country is performing against other BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) countries and between provinces.

"Much effort has been made to understand antimicrobial consumption in both the animal and human sectors. Efforts are now underway to assist provincial Departments of Health to implement interventions to combat the increase in antimicrobial use and AMR," the Health Department said.

World Antibiotic Awareness Week, observed from 14 - 20 November, aims to increase awareness of global antibiotic resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance.

A global action plan to tackle the growing problem of resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines was endorsed at the 68th World Health Assembly in May 2015.

One of the key objectives of the plan is to improve awareness and understanding of antimicrobial resistance through effective communication, education and training.


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