Tackling antimicrobial resistance in Africa through research

American researchers in Tanzania found that factors such as poverty and the use of traditional healers could have a significant impact on the creation of antimicrobial resistant viruses, bacteria and other parasites, and on the transfer of these microbes from livestock to humans.

The study found, for instance, that the Maasai mostly applied antimicrobial treatment without veterinary assistance. On top of that, only 7% of Maasai households indicated that they complied with the required withdrawal period for humans consuming meat and milk from animals during and after microbial treatment.

Apart from finding that groups such as the livestock-farming Maasai, who were less likely to consult vets because of the use of traditional healers, it also found that farmers who owned technology were more likely to apply the withdrawal period.

An example was the Arusha and Chagga, who fared considerably better with 72% and 96% of households respectively implementing the withdrawal period.

Researchers from the Washington State University (WSU) were looking at how human behaviour, cultural context and living conditions could affect the transmission of these resistant microbes from livestock to humans in stock-farming communities in Tanzania.

The study looked at the impact of 200 different socio-economic variables on the use of these drugs and the compliance from consuming innoculated meat and milk.

The leading causes of antibacterial resistance (AMR) in poorer communities are frequent and unregulated use of antibiotics on livestock.

“If our work points to specific interventions, it may be possible to reduce the burden of antimicrobial resistance and help African families have healthier and more productive lives,” said Doug Call, a professor at WSU’s Paul G Allen School for Global Animal Health and lead author of the study.

The world has recently seen a steep rise in AMR, especially in Africa where little research has been carried out on the subject. The World Health Organisation predicts AMR could by 2050 lead to 4.15 million people dying annually.

As part of the study, a data set of over 50 000 bacterial isolates was constructed from people, farm animals and wildlife, to enable researchers to link the prevalence of antibiotic resistant bacteria to practices which can be improved

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