STEPS are being taken at various levels to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – from checking drug sales to creating a system to monitor antibiotic levels in food animals.
A new system will be developed by the Veterinary Services Department (DVS) to check the levels of antibiotics in poultry and livestock to ensure it is safe for human consumption.
“The DVS will monitor the usage of antibiotics in animals,” says its director-general Datuk Dr Quaza Nizamuddin Hassan Nizam.
Echoing this, Federation of Livestock Farmers’ Associations of Malaysia president Datuk Jeffrey Ng Choon Ngee says there are plans to collect data under the proposed system from farms nationwide.
“The system will check whether the amount of antibiotic residue in food animals complies with proper standards,” he says.
However, Ng assures that there is minimal antibiotic usage in the local meat industry, adhering to World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) standards.
Growth antibiotics, he says, are rarely used in food animals like chickens in Malaysia.
“Under the Feed Act, if we were to add growth antibiotics into the animal feed, we will need to declare it.
“But most feed in the Malaysian market are not added with such components,” he adds.
More often though, the type of antibiotics used are to treat sick food animals.
However, such antibiotics will be removed naturally by the animal’s body within a “withdrawal period”.
“Such periods can vary according to the number of days required. It depends on the antibiotics used.
“Farmers must comply with the withdrawal period or else, there will be a high level of residue left in the meat,” Ng says, adding that this will be checked by the proposed new system.
On the medical front, the Health Ministry is continuously carrying out enforcement to curb any illegal sales of antibiotics.
Ministry Medical Development Division Infection Control Unit head Dr Suraya Amir Husin says the sale and usage of antibiotics are controlled under the Poisons Act 1952.
“Such drugs may only be supplied by licensed practitioners, veterinarians and pharmacists, with valid prescriptions.
“The online sale of antibiotics is prohibited under the same Act,” she explains.
To avoid overprescriptions, the ministry also monitors the use of antibiotics through annual checks at government hospitals, health clinics, Armed Forces Hospitals, University Hospitals and private hospitals.
“This year, the total antibiotic sales involving government and private healthcare sectors will be checked.
“Monitoring antibiotic sales will allow us to see consumption trends, which will be used as an indicator for the success of intervention measures,” Dr Suraya says.
But everyone can do their part in reducing AMR, such as by preventing infections from being transmitted.
“These measures include the appropriate use of antibiotics and vaccines, sanitation, hygiene measures, and other habits such as safe sexual practices.
“Efforts to control drug-resistant infections must become part of everyday practice in health care settings across the nation,” she says.
Doctors and pharmacists should prescribe and dispense only the antibiotics that are required to treat a patient, rather than automatically giving the newest or best-known medicines.
“Doctors should avoid overprescribing antibiotics despite being pressured by patients and should always follow guidelines and their clinical judgment,” urges Dr Suraya.
Calling it a “huge problem”, Malaysian Pharmaceutical Society president Amrahi Buang says as a member of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Malaysia is compelled to take appropriate actions to address AMR following the guide from WHO.
“We have formed a National Antimicrobial Resistance Committee that covers all aspects with regards to humans, animals and the environment.
“There are various working groups, covering awareness and education, antimicrobial stewardship initiatives and capacity building,” he says.
Amrahi stresses that all healthcare professionals must be trained on the proper use of antibiotics for various types of infections.
“In prescribing drugs, the choice of antibiotics in relation to the type of infection is very important.
“Patients must be given proper medication counselling by pharmacists when given antibiotics,” he urges.
Amrahi also advises healthcare professionals, handlers, visitors and patients to practice proper and adequate hand washing practices.
“Patients must follow the advice given by pharmacists at the point of dispensing.
“Antibiotics must be taken according to the stipulated time and duration of use.
“Patients shouldn’t share their antibiotics with others and inform prescribers if they are allergic to the medication,” he says.
Did you find this article insightful?