FAO regional training aims to improve access to new tool for assessment of laboratories and AMR surveillance systems

FAO regional training aims to improve access to new tool for assessment of laboratories and AMR surveillance systems

17/05/2018

Life saving medicines fail when bacteria become resistant to them, so countries are racing to battle these ‘bad bugs’ through improved surveillance systems to protect animals, people and livelihoods. Without global action, by 2050 the World Bank predicts the global economy will lose more than USD $6 trillion dollars annually because of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – that’s nearly 4% of Gross Domestic Product. And in just ten years’ time, AMR will force another 24 million people into extreme poverty, increasing the number of people going hungry and suffering from malnutrition.

“Winning against AMR depends on our ability to effectively track it within and across countries to get a better handle on which bugs are a problem and where - locally, regionally and globally,” said Carolyn Benigno, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) AMR Asia Regional Project Coordinator.

FAO, with support of the United Kingdom’s Fleming Fund and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is helping countries in Asia and Africa to evaluate and improve their food and agriculture AMR surveillance systems using the FAO Assessment Tool for Laboratory and AMR Surveillance Systems (ATLASS). ATLASS has so far been successfully piloted in seven and six countries in the two regions, respectively. These pilot missions have contributed to refining and fine-tuning the tool to the state that it is now.

ATLASS  is composed of four main standardized documents, including scored questionnaires for AMR surveillance and laboratory.  The combination of different scores obtained from these questionnaires are automatically compiled to determine the stage of the country along the progressive improvement pathway (PIP), which can be anywhere from level 1 (“no capacity”) to level 5 (“sustainable capacity”).  The tool also assists to identify critical areas for improvement, so that countries can strategically prioritize interventions to advance their PIP stage.

Regional Surveillance Coordinator, Mary Joy Gordoncillo, said that “FAO is now building a pool of trained ATLASS assessors in the region to help more countries in applying this tool to strengthen their AMR surveillance programs.”  The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) hosted the first regional ATLASS Assessors training in Asia organized and conducted by FAO on 7-10 May 2018. The training included participants from Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Thailand, and Viet Nam. As part of the training, an actual ATLASS mission was also conducted for AVA Singapore, with the trainers serving as the lead assessors.

“The first assessment is just the beginning and we recommend that countries re-assess their AMR surveillance system regularly either by themselves using the ATLASS tool, or through our team of external assessors so they can effectively track their progress,” Gordoncillo said.

The community of ATLASS assessors is expected to monitor and sustain the momentum in progressing AMR surveillance in the agricultural sector in their respective countries. ATLASS has been piloted to date in Asia in Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Viet Nam, Lao PDR and Philippines, and in Africa in Senegal, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Zambia.