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Nov 26

Antimicrobial resistance battle

microbe2Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest health threats that mankind faces now and in the coming decades. In the past, resistant infections were associated predominantly with hospitals, but over the last decade this is now being seen in the wider community.  A report published in December 2014 estimated that in total about 700,000 people die every year from drug resistant strains of common bacterial infections, HIV, TB and malaria. They felt it was likely to be an underestimate due to poor reporting and surveillance.  In May 2016 a final report was published that estimated the current death toll  is  more than one million people have lost their lives to drug-resistant infections in the 19 months since they published the first report. Further they estimated that by 2050, 10 million lives a year and a cumulative 100 trillion USD of economic output are at risk due to the rise of drug resistant infections if no action is taken. eHealth will be critical to assist with this battle against the growth of anti-microbial resistance.

3 ways eHealth can help

  • Modernise the surveillance of drug resistance to have better systematic global surveillance systems, to track the spread of both infectious diseases and resistance. This includes having data collected on a local, national, and international level and making better use of digital opportunities for gathering, analysing and acting on real-time data.
  • Communications and marketing – better use and sharing of the information that is currently available to information healthcare providers, administrators and patients.
  • Rapid Diagnostic test and results reporting such as simplified devices to enable testing in laboratories with limited resources or in hospitals, doctors’ surgeries, or even pharmacies, would facilitate both better diagnosis and more comprehensive data generation.

3 issues that will need to be overcome

  • While multinational surveillance systems exist, e.g. CDC and EARS-Net, no single system offers adequate access to the most recent global data.
  • The current systems rely on data that is released into the public domain on a voluntary basis. Again such data is sporadic, sometimes years out of date, and patchy, with some parts of the world having no data at all.
  • Access to the laboratory technology to conduct tests is currently variable. The basic laboratory technology required for local data generation is in widespread use in the developed world, but deployment is uneven in the developing world.

The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance chaired by Jim O’Neill recommended that because surveillance needs to be global to be truly effective, governments should consider now how it can be improved on an international level, including the infrastructure surrounding it. Effective surveillance of anti-microbial resistance, and movements towards the digitalisation of surveillance, also raise data policy and data quality questions, which policy-makers ought to consider now. The draft Global Action Plan proposed by the WHO is a strong foundation to this work – but decisive action including funding needs to happen now to turn intentions into results.

Globally there is a unique opportunity for innovations in computing and the use of data to unlock transformational change in how we approach global anti-microbial resistance surveillance. The risk otherwise is that the world either misses out on the potential of digital surveillance – or that the benefits are spread unequally and inefficiently.

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