Why It Matters

Joining hands to tackle superbugs

Singapore is a small country, so attempts to cut down on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) here are unlikely to impact the global scene. Furthermore, a lot of antimicrobials, antibiotics in particular, are used in farming, a sector that is pretty small here.

So, does having a national plan to combat AMR make sense? The answer is yes, for two good reasons.

The first is to remind people that many small efforts can together make a huge difference.

The other reason hits closer to home. By actively fighting the spread of superbugs, people here are protected to a greater extent.

While it might not be possible to stop a superbug from infecting people here, good hygiene practices, such as washing one's hands or covering the mouth when coughing and sneezing, can help stop it from spreading.

Singapore is also encouraging adult vaccines by allowing the use of Medisave for such purposes. Vaccines significantly reduce the incidence of infections. This, in turn, reduces the need to use antimicrobials to treat the ailment.

Also, farms can reduce the use of antibiotics in animals. Giving animals antibiotics to hasten their growth has led to an increase in resistance, and these resistant bugs can be passed from animals to people. People can also get infected by these bugs from the air, soil and water they come into contact with. It is therefore important to ensure that waste water from places that make or use antimicrobials do not carry trace amounts of the drugs.

There is a real risk that these could gradually build up resistance in bugs in the water, and in time, fish. This would impact the people who eat the fish.

That is why the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, the National Environment Agency and national water agency PUB have joined forces with the Health Ministry. This whole-of-government effort is a necessary move in the fight against AMR. And such a fight is necessary to protect our people.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 06, 2017, with the headline 'Joining hands to tackle superbugs'. Print Edition | Subscribe