SINGAPORE: A national strategic action plan has been developed by Singapore One Health agencies to tackle the problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
This was announced by Senior Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min at an AMR public health dialogue on Wednesday (Nov 1).
The World Health Organisation defines AMR as the ability of microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and some parasites to stop an antimicrobial, such as antibiotics, from working against it.
This means that standard treatments become ineffective, and infections persist and may spread to other people.
Developed by the One Health Antimicrobial Resistance Workgroup, which comprises the Ministry of Health (MOH), Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, National Environment Agency and National Water Agency PUB, the action plan provides a framework to strengthen and enhance activities to combat AMR, address identified gaps and prioritise future interventions, the agencies said in a joint release.
It aims to reduce the emergence and prevent the spread of drug-resistant microorganisms through five core strategies.
These are education, surveillance and risk assessment, research, prevention and control of infection, and optimisation of antimicrobial use.
Dr Lam said that the group is also looking into strengthening public education efforts on AMR.
This could include activities in schools to "engage our children from a young age" and teach them about "simple steps" like maintaining personal hygiene as well as a more in-depth understanding of how antibiotics work.
"It is only a matter of time after the discovery of an antimicrobial and its introduction to market that a microorganism develops resistance to it, often fuelled by the overuse or abuse of these antimicrobials," said Dr Lam.
"The extreme scenario of AMR – of having no effective antibiotics to treat infections, will bring us to a post-antibiotic era where simple infections may kill."
He pointed out that even today, there exist infections that do not respond to many treatment options.
"We must therefore take action now," he said.
To this end, Dr Lam also identified three term longer-term efforts needed to combat AMR.
The first of these is integration, said Dr Lam, which is the need to coordinate efforts across sectors.
“In human health, MOH has been supporting surveillance of resistant infections and antimicrobial usage in public hospitals," he said.
"Hospital surveillance teams actively monitor AMR and data from such activities have enabled the implementation control measures to prevent the transmission of infections by resistant microorganisms."
The second is in-depth research, to understand the complex factors influencing AMR and to develop innovative, evidence-based initiatives.
The third is recognising that AMR is a global problem, said Dr Lam, and that Singapore domestic efforts must complement work done by international counterparts.