We celebrate World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (WAAW) between 18-24 November annually. The 2021 theme, Spread Awareness, Stop Resistance, calls on all stakeholders, policymakers, health care providers, and the general public to be Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Awareness champions.
The 18 November 2021 is also the European Antibiotics Awareness Day. According to the WHO, AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to medicines making infections harder to treat and increasing the risk of disease spread, severe illness and death. AMR is recognised as one of the top 10 global public health threats facing humanity. AMR is a broad term, encompassing resistance to drugs to treat infections caused by various microbes. Antibiotic resistance is a specific term for resistance to drugs used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. It is very important to use the right antibiotics at the right time for the right periods when needed.
We have recently completed a Bloomsbury SET funded project entitled “Contextualise antimicrobial resistance perspectives in Sri Lanka and European Union”. This was conducted by Dr Simon Rofe (SOAS University of London), Prof Ayona Silva-Fletcher (Royal Veterinary College), Prof Marin Bauer (London School of Economics), Prof Mohan Munasinghe (MIND, Sri Lanka) and led by myself from SOAS Economics. We analysed the existing EU Eurobarometer data sets as well as newly acquired household survey data in Sri Lanka to better understand social science factors that potentially contribute to the spread of antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance. At the country level in Europe, antibiotic resistance is socially structured awareness: the more educated, the older and the better situated have generally higher awareness of antibiotics. We further considered six sets of structural variables which have statistical associations with antibiotic resistance awareness in Sri Lanka: socio-demographic, politics, business mentality, medical culture, traditional mentality, science knowledge, and science culture. We observed a wide range of variations in terms of the influence of those socio-economic variables on antibiotic resistance awareness within the different regions in Sri Lanka. In general, antibiotic resistance awareness in Sri Lanka still seems relatively low compared to European countries. Our research calls for enhanced action plans to increase the antibiotic knowledge level with a particular focus on certain population groups, such as those who are financially vulnerable and in remote geographical areas.
Our project results were recently presented at a symposium ‘What do the public and health professionals know about antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance: how to increase awareness and understanding using citizen science principles?’ at Science & You Congress in Metz France on 16-19 November 2021. This is an international event of scientific and technical culture organised by the University of Lorraine supported by the French government, UNESCO and other numerous public and private organisations. The symposium, chaired by Prof Ayona Silva-Fletcher (RVC), included four speakers: Dr Edoardo Zulato (Universita degli Studi di Milano-Biocca, Italy), Dr Yasodhara Gunasekera (University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka), Dr Deepani Jayantha (Elemotion Foundation, US) and myself from SOAS Economics. Dr Edoardo Zulato started the symposium with his findings of the present and historical trends of AMR awareness across Europe, followed by Dr Yasodhara Gunasekera who discussed general public knowledge and perception about antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance in Sri Lanka. I summed up by presenting our comparative analysis of antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance awareness in Europe and Sri Lanka. Dr Deepani Jayantha concluded the symposium by suggesting potential tools for raising antibiotic resistance awareness by sharing her work on the use of citizen science principles to raise awareness of antibiotics and antimicrobial awareness.
Dr Risa Morimoto is a lecturer in Environmental and Development Economics at the Department of Economics, SOAS University of London UK. Her research includes environmental project evaluation, policy modelling and analysis in a wide range of fields from agriculture to waste.