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Combating antibiotic resistance

Awareness raising leaflets used during the 2016 Antibiotic Awareness Week

Phnom Penh: Today, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) are joining their high level commitment to launch the Antibiotic Awareness Week. The event is held for a weeklong from 12 to 18 December with the goal of raising awareness and providing information about prudent use of antibiotics and dangers of spreading antibiotic resistance in Cambodia.

 The discovery of antibiotics almost ninety years ago changed the course of modern medicine, giving doctors and veterinarians the ability to treat previously fatal infections. However, antibiotics have increasingly lost their effectiveness due to resistance. Antibiotics are medicines used to treat bacterial infections. Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines, and as a result, become antibiotic-resistant, meaning ineffective. Antibiotic resistance is probably the most urgent type of antimicrobial resistance and is occurring everywhere in the world. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is, even broader, and is the ability of a microorganism (like bacteria, viruses, and parasites) to stop an antimicrobial (such as antibiotics, anti-virals and anti-malarials) from working against it. Resistance leads to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays, increased suffering, and increased mortality in humans and animals.

 AMR can affect anyone, of any age, in any country and is one of the fastest growing threats to global health, food security and development today. It is difficult to quantify the magnitude of the problem, due to a lack of adequate surveillance systems, but some estimate that by 2050 antimicrobial resistance could be responsible for killing 10 million people a year globally, more than cancer kills today.

 Antibiotic resistance is also a threat to Cambodia, its environment, as well as its sustainability of food and agriculture production systems. As other countries in the region, Cambodia is witnessing a growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, brought about by the excessive and irrational use of antibiotics at all levels of the food and livestock production, in the health care system and by the general public.

 Dr. Mam Bun Heng, Minister of Health, said “Anti-microbial resistance is an increasingly serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society. A coordinated approach is necessary to address the causes of AMR and to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance”

 Resistance to antibiotics is also a food safety problem. Today, it is estimated that half of all antibiotics used globally are used within the livestock sector. Antibiotics are used in animals for treatment, but the resistance is mainly driven by anon-rational use such as treatment without proper diagnosis, use for prevention instead of cure, use for growth promotion and herd treatment. The development of antimicrobial resistance in animals can be passed to humans by animal contact, via the environment and by ingestion of animal source foods. Antibiotic resistance in animals should therefore be considered as a public health concern.

 The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mr. Veng Sakhon, expressed “It is crucial that regulations regarding the use of antimicrobials are matched by efficient animal health management to prevent infectious diseases and thereby make the use of antimicrobials unnecessary.”

 Cambodia is among the very few countries in the region that has already developed a national policy and action plan to combat antimicrobial resistance. Continued success will require substantial funding, high-level political commitment, and increasing coordination between different sectors.

 Aware of the criticality of public awareness, the Ministry of Health is urging the population to take the following advices to protect themselves and their family:

  1. For fever or cold flu, do not take antibiotics.
  2. Do not buy antibiotics without a prescription.
  3. Antibiotics can only be prescribed by a physician.
  4. Do not use antibiotics left from previous treatments.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is requesting farmers and livestock keepers to:

  1. Implement good farm practices and animal health management
  2. Only use antimicrobials when necessary

FAO and WHO are fully committed to supporting the Royal Government of Cambodia in its fight against Antimicrobial Resistance. The world urgently needs to change the way it prescribes and uses antibiotics. Even if new medicines are developed, without behavior change, antibiotic resistance will remain a major threat. Both organizations insist that actions need to be taken today, to save cure for common infectious diseases tomorrow.

For further information, please contact:

Ministry of Health                                            
Dr Ly Sovann: Tel +855 12 825 424                 

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Dr. Sen Sovann: Tel +855 11 880 047

FAO Cambodia
Mr. Chheng Channy:Tel +855 12 775 772, email: channy.chheng@fao.org 

Dowload the press release in Khmer Vision.