Sun | Apr 2, 2023

Earth Today | Local support for superbugs prescription

Published:Thursday | February 9, 2023 | 1:15 AM

LOCAL STAKEHOLDERS have endorsed a wide-ranging set of recommendations to tackle superbugs, following the release of a report that calls attention to environmental drivers of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The recommendations entailed in the report out of the United Nations Environment Programme – titled Bracing for Superbugs: Strengthening environmental action in the One Health response to antimicrobial resistance’ – include the creation of robust and coherent national-level governance, planning, regulatory and legal frameworks.

These are in addition to mainstreaming environmental considerations into National Action Plans on AMR, and AMR into environmental-related plans, such as national chemical pollution and waste-management programmes, national biodiversity and climate change planning.

The report also recommended international standards for good microbiological indicators of AMR from environmental samples, “to guide risk-reduction decisions and create effective incentives to follow such guidance”; and to make the investment case for sustainable funding.

“What is needed is for the problem of antimicrobial resistance to really be given the resources required for it to be addressed to the fullest extent, including addressing the applicable aspects of pollution, as well as the other strategies required in human and animal health and other sectors,” said Dr Camille-Ann Thoms-Rodriguez, consultant medical microbiologist and lecturer at The University of the West Indies.

The scale of the problem, she said, should not be underestimated.

“Antimicrobials are used in healthcare, veterinary medicine and other sectors. Its use, or misuse, can lead to the emergence of resistance that can then be spread through a number of means. Curtailing waste generated in certain contexts has applications that go hand in hand with other strategies used in various sectors. In healthcare, we advocate for the judicious use of antimicrobials. They should be taken as prescribed, they should not be shared, they should not be misused,” she said.

“The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has put forward different threat levels for superbugs. Examples of those superbugs considered urgent include certain bacteria in the same family E. coli that are resistant to high-powered antibiotics like carbapenems. We here in Jamaica have seen some of these superbugs, including those considered urgent by the CDC. We are also still at risk to being exposed to superbugs in other settings because we live in a global village, and so resistance in one place could mean resistance everywhere,” Thoms-Rodriguez explained.


For the chief executive officer of the Jamaica Environment Trust, Dr Theresa Rodriguez, a key takeaway from the report is the need for prevention.

“Key to that is environmental monitoring and enforcement. This will avoid the need to always react or respond to a problem. The focus shifts to preventing the problem in the first place. In order to do this, environmental monitoring and enforcement needs to be strengthened, and the fines and penalties need to be harsher,” she said.

Eleanor Jones, who heads Environmental Solutions Limited, is of a similar view.

“We are overwhelmed with so many issues we have to deal with, but we have to focus on the health of our population, the factors that contribute to health, and the link between the care of the environment and our health. So pollution reduction; caring for our biodiversity, which provides us with natural services; and how we manage our food, our water, our land are all important,” she said.