The Inter-agency Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance and national partners kicked off the World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW). With the theme ”Antimicrobials: handle with care,” the annual WAAW aims to increase global awareness on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and encourage the public, health workers, and policymakers to stop the emergence and spread of drug-resistant infections.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared AMR as one of the top ten global public health threats to humanity along with communicable diseases, air pollution and flu pandemic, among others. AMR occurs when the medicines used to treat microbes, like bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites, have weakened or are no longer effective.

AMR can also occur naturally because of genetic mutations in pathogens, but the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in humans, animals and plants have sped up its emergence. This emergence and spread of drug-resistant pathogens makes common infections harder to treat.

AMR can also spread from people to people and between humans and animals. Factors like lack of access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene, misuse of antimicrobial drugs, and poor infection prevention and control can contribute to AMR.

The Department of Health (DOH) warned the public against the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials, including antibiotics, especially during this pandemic.

“We encourage the public to consult with your physicians first before buying antibiotics. And if your physician prescribed you with antibiotics, complete your medications and do not share it with anyone,” Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.

“The misuse and overuse of antibiotics may speed up the emergence of these drug-resistant infections. Antibiotics should only be prescribed when needed, and it should not be used to treat viral infections. Antibiotics are for bacterial infections; it cannot kill cold and flu viruses,” Sec. Duque added.
In 2012, the DOH and the Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory against pharmacies dispensing antibiotics without correct prescription. DOH also launched in 2017 a National Antibiotic Guidelines that aims to optimize use of antibiotics in healthcare institutions.

“The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates countries must invest now in all areas of health systems to ensure they have the core capacity to prevent, detect, respond to, and recover from serious public health events.

The capacity to prevent and manage emerging drug-resistant pathogens, and preserve effectiveness of existing antibiotics and drugs to treat serious infections is, and must be a core element of national action plans for health security, and their implementation” said Dr Rabindra Abeyasinghe, WHO Representative to the Philippines.

DOH has also called on everyone to fight antimicrobial resistance.

“Let us always be reminded that we can prevent infections by washing our hands, avoiding contact with the sick and keeping our vaccinations up to date. Only use antibiotics and other antimicrobials when needed and always take the full prescription,” Sec. Duque said.

The Inter-agency Committee on Antimicrobial Resistance, co-chaired by DOH and the Department of Agriculture, will spearhead the observance of WAAW from November 18 to 24 in the country in partnership with the WHO Philippines and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.