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Report shows loopholes in drug surveillance

By Flavia Nassaka

Research done by Uganda National Academy of Sciences (UNAS) and the Global Antibiotic Resistance Partnership (GARP) Uganda has revealed that surveillance of antibiotics is not routinely performed in Uganda as information on antibiotic resistance remains limited.

The report says resistance has not been investigated consistently to the same antibiotics and clinical conditions over a long period of time.

During the launch of a report titled Antibiotic Resistance in Uganda: Situation Analysis and Recommendations held on Sept 15,  Prof. Dennis Byarugaba, the Chairman of  GARP said while the Ministry of Health is aware of the drug resistance problem, it’s considered a matter of relative insignificance except in the case of tuberculosis, HIV/ AIDS and malaria.

Drug resistance is defined as the ability of microbes, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi, to grow in the presence of a chemical (drug) that would normally kill it or limit its growth.

Byarugaba says a broad range of bacteria in Uganda show high resistance to commonly used antibiotics such as penicillin, tetracyclines, amoxil and co-trimoxazole (septrin) – at above 50%.

Uganda like many countries in Africa suffers from a high burden of infectious diseases. HIV/AIDS, with a prevalence of 7% which amounts to about 1.4 million people has compromised the ability of the population to fight off infections naturally. The burden of respiratory infections, diarrheal diseases, sepsis (whole-body inflammatory response to an infection), Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs), meningitis and sexually-transmitted infections remain high. Pneumonia, particularly caused by streptococcus pneumonia, causes up to 34,000 deaths annually, according to the Ministry of health statistics.  All these including animal diseases are best treated by antibiotics something that is increasingly being compromised by resistance to the drugs by the pathogens.

“What is more concerning to doctors is the high prevalence of multi-drug resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and extended- spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) – producing bacteria which confers resistance to some advanced (strong) antibiotics”, says Byarugaba.

UNAS president Prof. Nelson Sewankambo said in order to address the growing problem of drug resistance, there is need to reduce antibiotics use in agriculture, put in place measures to avoid self medication, educate health professionals, policy makers and the public on sustainable antibiotics use

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