Challenges in tackling antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in East Africa: progress of UK-Africa collaboration

A recent research by The Bloomsbury SET conducted by Prospect IP, reveals the challenges surrounding antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, thereby reiterating the need for an interdisciplinary and holistic approach to the threat of AMR in east Africa.

Antimicrobial resistance (AR) is a state whereby microorganisms develop resistance to conventional antimicrobial substances such as drugs and disinfecting agents. AMR is a serious threat to global health, as it can impair the ability of healthcare practitioners to treat common infectious diseases. Aside from the health risk created by resistant bacteria, AMR is also recognized as a significant threat to the world economy.

In exploring the issues and challenges of combating AMR in low and middle-income countries, “East Africa Case Study: UK-Africa collaborations in combatting Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)” study compares the national progress of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania AMR management in line with the WHO Global Action Plan

The emergence and spread of infectious diseases depend on complex interactions between humans and animals, their relationship with the environment and socio-economic factors. Knowledge gaps and lack of awareness of these interconnections contribute to the scale of the problem. The inappropriate use of drugs to tackle infectious diseases has led to the increasing burden of AMR which now threatens to undermine previously effective control measures. Low- and middle-income countries are at higher risk of AMR due to the high incidence of infectious diseases and factors such as poor sanitation and contaminated water, limited access to antibiotics, weak health systems and underdeveloped antibiotic stewardship.

Though, the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and lockdown militated against opportunities for focus group activities, useful insights and data were elicited from key stakeholder in AMR management in 11 academic institutions in the UK via interviews and the administration of questionnaires.

The study identified the need to build capability in LMIC in areas such as AMR awareness, stewardship programmes, socio-economic impact, communication and stakeholder engagement. These findings align with the AMR Funders’ Forum ‘Research Capacity and Skills Review’, published in 2018. Adoption of technological solutions for infectious diseases and AMR will also require a different set of skills, data integration, more effective communication and interdisciplinary approaches with greater involvement of the many different stakeholders.

Professor Claire Heffernan, Director of the London International Development Centre (LIDC) and Professor of International Development at The Royal Veterinary College, said:

“This report is both relevant and timely as we consider the global impact of infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance, following the events of 2020. By exploring knowledge exchange activities in the East Africa region, it provides useful insight to the development of future initiatives, and outlines pathways and pipelines for further research and collaboration in this space.”

The East Africa Case Study provides informative appendices that serve as a directory of 28 collaborative projects highlighting the key players and partners in the UK and Africa, and funding provided by schemes such as the Fleming Fund, a £265 million UK aid programme supporting 24 countries across Africa and Asia to tackle AMR. This is part of a major funding initiative from UK Government departments described in the UKCDR’s report on ‘Antimicrobial Resistance in International Development: UK Research Funding Landscape’, published in 2019.

This research focusing on East Africa as a case study is timely with regards to the Government funding for international development which is currently under review, as it highlights the ongoing priorities and future needs

With Government funding for international development now under review, the East Africa Case Study is timely in highlighting the ongoing priorities and future needs.