Saturday July 20, 2019

WHO Launches Tool for Safer Use of Antibiotics, Curb Resistance

Its global initiative, so-called AWaRe campaign, is aimed at making decision and policymakers aware

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WHO, Tool, Antibiotics
FILE - This illustration released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a group of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) is launching a new tool to reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Its global initiative, so-called AWaRe campaign, is aimed at making decision and policymakers aware of the appropriate and effective use of antibiotics for specific infections.

Antimicrobial resistance is growing because of the widespread abuse and misuse of antibiotics. The WHO considers antimicrobial resistance one of the most urgent health risks in the world. It warns a century of medical progress will be undone without accelerated action to contain rising resistance by making antibiotic use safer and more effective.

WHO assistant director general for access to medicines Mariangela Simao says pneumonia kills many children in developing countries because they do not get appropriate medication.

“More than almost a million deaths in developing countries is due to treatable bacterial diseases, which can in most cases be linked to the lack of access to antibiotics, or to wrong diagnostics, or to wrong prescriptions,” she said. “So, we, by launching this tool, WHO aims at narrowing the gap between excess use and access.”

WHO, Tool, Antibiotics
The World Health Organization (WHO) is launching a new tool to reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Pixabay

The tool is based on the WHO Essential Medicines List. The list specifies which antibiotics to use for the most common and serious infections and those which should be available at all times in the health care system.

WHO Assistant Director General for Antimicrobial Resistance, Hanan Balkhy, says the Essential Medicines List also indicates those antibiotics that must be used sparingly and as a last resort.

“We expect that the list will actually be a legitimate reference for health care providers who would like to understand the better ways of prescribing antibiotics,” she said. “And that following these guidelines will actually help them in having a system of how they would prescribe antibiotics, and have it based on a legitimate resource, which is the WHO.”

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The World Health Organization notes no significant investments are being made in the development of new antibiotics. Therefore it says improving the use of existing antibiotics is critical to curb the further spread of antimicrobial resistance. It says its new guidelines will help prescribers and health workers select the right antibiotic for the right infection, thereby protecting endangered antibiotics. (VOA)

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Efforts to Contain Spread of Ebola Virus to Remain Elusive Unless Cycle of Violence is Broken

A senior World Health Organization official warns efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus

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Ebola workers enter a house to decontaminate the body of a woman suspected of dying from Ebola, before the vehicle of the health ministry Ebola response team was attacked in Beni, northeastern Congo Monday, June 24, 2019. VOA

A senior World Health Organization official warns efforts to contain the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo will remain elusive unless the vicious cycle of violence in the region is broken.  Latest WHO figures put the number of Ebola cases at 2284, including 1540 deaths and 637 survivors.

WHO Assistant Director-General for Emergency Response Ibrahima Soce Fall says there has been good progress in scaling up operations to contain the spread of the deadly ebola virus in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

Fall has just returned from a three-month stint in Butembo, the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic in DR Congo.  He says last week there were 79 new Ebola cases, 27 fewer than the previous week.  He says infections are continuing to fall in the major urban centers of Butembo and Katwa thanks to coverage in all 33 health areas.

At the same time, he tells VOA the operation is running into difficulty in the rural areas of Mabalako and Mandima, the new hot spots of the epidemic.

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Congolese security forces attend the scene after the vehicle of a health ministry Ebola response team was attacked in Beni, northeastern Congo Monday, June 24, 2019. VOA

“The access is more challenging.  In the same area, we have some villages where you have both ADF (Allied Democratic Forces) armed group coming from Uganda and some Mai Mai groups,” said Fall.  “So, access needs to be assessed on a daily basis to be able to move up to the intervention.  So, it is really important to take into account this very volatile situation.”

Eastern DRC has been politically unstable since 1998.   There are an estimated 4.5 million internally displaced people in the country.  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says new displacements are occurring mainly in the eastern provinces of Ituri and North and South Kivu.  More than 100 armed groups reportedly are engaged in sporadic fighting in the region.

Fall says constant and skilled negotiations with the armed groups are needed to gain access to these volatile areas.

“The outbreak started there last year and spread to other areas,” Fall said. “So, it is important to break this vicious cycle to contain very quickly the situation in Mabalako and Mandima, where we have more than 55 percent of the cases coming from.”

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Fall says it will be exceedingly difficult to contain the virus if more money is not immediately forthcoming.   He says $98 million is needed to support the government-led response to defeat ebola.  To date, he says less than half that amount has been received. (VOA)