SINGAPORE - Work to reduce drug resistance in bacteria, viruses and fungi has been ongoing in Singapore for years, but has been carried out in silos.
In a step to bring together the agencies involved – the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, the Health Ministry, the National Environment Agency and national water agency PUB – the Government set up a multi-ministerial committee in January to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as a whole-of-government effort.
It has come up with a National Strategic Action Plan, which was launched on Wednesday (Nov 1). The plan looks at gaps in current efforts and suggests ways to deal with them to prevent the AMR problem from getting worse.
- Greater awareness among people on the importance of using antibiotics correctly. For example, antibiotics are of no use against viral infections such as the flu.
- Getting more people to be vaccinated against infections. Fewer infections mean less need for antibiotics. The recently launched adult vaccination programme is a step in this direction.
- Strengthen AMR education among doctors. Many doctors believe antibiotics are overprescribed in primary care.
- Greater education among veterinarians and farmers on the proper use of antimicrobials. This is because animals are fed antibiotics, and some of it would remain in the food we eat.
- Expand surveillance of bacteria and resistance to include all animal production sectors such as poultry and fish farms.
- Identify resistance against certain bacteria in poultry, diary and food-fish farms.
- Promote use of vaccines to prevent disease in animals and fish, rather than use drugs to treat them.
- Improve animal management process to reduce infectious diseases in animals, and thus, reduce the use of antimicrobials.
- Reduce inappropriate use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals.
- Educate the industry on the proper disposal of antimicrobial waste, as it could spread resistance. This includes not just farmers, but also manufacturers, distributors and pet owners.
- Standardise data reporting of resistant drugs and other related information for easier surveillance.
- Enhance laboratory testing capacity, including identifying a core panel of microbials for surveillance.
- Surveillance of drug-resistant organisms in retail food and meat. Identify risks and trends of drug-resistant organisms along the food chain, as people can become drug resistant this way.
- Surveillance of the environment, including water bodies and used water in treatment processes, which may harbour traces of antibiotics or drug-resistant organisms.
- Educate food handlers to maintain high levels of hygiene.