Event Report: World Antimicrobials Awareness Week 2020

Medicine is ever-evolving, with many aspects requiring attention to ensure that our patients receive the best care. An incorrect habit commonly done in the community or a simple mistake from a healthcare provider could affect a patient’s outcome greatly. Antimicrobial resistance is a condition in which bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites may change over time and become resistant to antibiotics, thus complicating one’s treatments adversely. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antimicrobial resistance occurs naturally, but the misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals is accelerating the process. A growing number of infections are becoming harder to treat as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective. Therefore, it is paramount that members of the public and healthcare practitioners understand the importance of preventing antimicrobial resistance.

In a world where it is becoming increasingly understood that many public health issues are interconnected, antimicrobial resistance is one such issue requiring a well-rounded approach. One Health is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach.” It recognises that the health between humans, animals, and the environment is interconnected, driving a holistic approach applicable to implementing various programmes, policies, and research in public health – including antimicrobial resistance.

Following a stakeholder’s consultation meeting in May 2020 organised by the Tripartite organisations – the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Organisation for Animal Health, and World Health Organization – the scope of World Antimicrobials Awareness Week (WAAW) was expanded, changing its focus from “antibiotics” to the more encompassing and inclusive term “antimicrobials.” World Antimicrobials Awareness Week will now be celebrated on 18-24 November annually, and the theme for 2020 is “United to Preserve Antimicrobials.”

In commemoration of World Antimicrobials Awareness Week 2020, AMSA International and the Federation of African Medical Students’ Associations (FAMSA) have co-organised a series of events to facilitate a discussion towards a more unified global response with the One Health approach. To achieve this wide scope of healthcare sectors, we partnered with European Medical Students’ Association (EMSA), International Association of Dental Students (IADS), and International Veterinary Students Association (IVSA) as Associate Partners and Asian Pacific Dental Students Association (APDSA) as Outreach Partners.

We kickstarted the week by buzzing some information on Instagram as the World Antimicrobials Awareness Week began. Our first event was a Twitter chat with Dr Rohini Dutta, an intern at Christian Medical College, Ludhiana, who attended a clinical elective on Infectious Diseases at Icahn’s School of Medicine, New York and is passionate about antimicrobial resistance. Through AMSA International’s and FAMSA’s respective Twitter accounts, we received excellent responses and interaction between various Twitter users and Dr Dutta, all in all constituting a great discussion.

On Instagram, we shared a “Know Yourself” checklist template for Instagram users to screenshot, fill in, and upload on their own Instagram stories. This template shows the users’ understanding of concepts related to antibiotic usage, encouraging users to be more aware of making choices that could contribute to the worsening of antimicrobial resistance. We also shared some infographics containing fast facts and myth-busters regarding antimicrobial resistance.

Our main event, “International ‘One Health’ Webinar: One Health Approaches to Tackling Antimicrobial Resistance,” intrigued many people, with over 300 participants signing up. We invited speakers from the different One Health sectors to share their field’s perspective about antimicrobial resistance. The webinar was hosted by the MC, Laura Nyiha from FAMSA. Upon the speakers’ sessions, the discussion was moderated by Leonard Sy Lim from AMSA Philippines.

An array of professional doctors and outstanding student speakers spoke about antimicrobials resistance in their respective fields. Dr Roger Harrison, a senior lecturer from The University of Manchester and academic lead on the education committee for Antibiotic Research UK, started us off by discussing how we can address antimicrobial resistance through a One Health approach. Mehdi Amrani, a final year veterinary student from Institut Agronomique et Vétérinaire and a founding member of IVSA Morocco, shared how veterinary sciences and the associated livestock, aquaculture, and food industry are involved in antimicrobial resistance. Berkay Akad Ulker, a fourth-year medical student at Faculty of Medicine, Istanbul University, and the Vice President of Internal Affairs of EMSA Europe, spoke about the role of environment and the associated pollution in developing antimicrobial resistance, and how medical students in Europe are recognising this issue. Dr Shamsudin Aliyu, a Consultant Medical Microbiologist and Lecturer at the Department of Medical Microbiology of the Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria, discussed the role of medicine and the impact of misuse and overuse of antibiotics. We then had Dr Ajidahun Olusina Michael, an award-winning doctor known as The Bearded Dr Sina on Instagram, who discussed the impact of healthcare services on antimicrobial resistance, highlighting the situation in Africa. Our final speaker, Dr Wendy Thompson, a clinical academic dentist at The University of Manchester, United Kingdom and a researcher and specialist advisor on dental antibiotic prescribing, brought a dental perspective on how antibiotic stewardship is imperative to preserve the life-saving effects of antibiotics.

Throughout the webinar, there was a great level of enthusiasm and eagerness from participants who submitted questions for the speakers during the session. We are grateful for the speakers who have spared a moment to share their knowledge and passion about antimicrobial resistance, according to their expertise. All recipients were subject to a pre-event and post-event evaluation form, after which they were entitled to an e-certificate.

The events throughout World Antimicrobials Awareness Week would not have been made possible without the hard work and attention given by the organising committee from AMSA International and FAMSA. Thank you to Frances, Khush, Sylvia, Eqi, Samuel, Dita, Chinaza, Vellia, Abdulhammed, Edward, and Lee for your contribution in making this collaboration happen. And of course, our most gracious thank you to all of you who participated in World Antimicrobials Awareness Week and supported us; we hope to see your enthusiasm again in future events.

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