Experts Recommend a Series of Steps to Tackle the Issue of Antibiotic Resistance

Enass Abu Khalaf


Over 80 regional and international health experts gathered in Amman on September 21 and 22 to discuss the issue of antibiotic resistance in the Middle East. They discussed the nature of the problem as well  as ways of maintaining the effectiveness of current antibiotics and reducing drug-resistant infections in hospitals.

The conference participants agreed that antibiotic-resistant infections constitute a serious threat to public health in the region. There was consensus that, to counter this challenge, decision makers and practitioners in all sectors should make greater efforts to find and implement solutions. 

Key next steps to address antibiotic resistance in the region include

  • implementing greater restrictions on over-the-counter antibiotic sales;
  • launching public campaigns to reduce patient demand for antibiotics;
  • improving professional training to avoid prescribing of antibiotics for non-bacterial illnesses (such as bronchitis and the common cold);
  • developing antibiotic stewardship programs in hospitals; and
  • supporting publicly financed surveillance networks to track resistant bacteria.

“We need to establish a network of experts to fight against antibiotic resistance,” said Timothy Walsh, professor of medical microbiology and antibiotic resistance at Park Hospital, Wales, who was a participant at the conference. “Networks like this currently don’t exist in the region.”

In Jordan, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been experiencing the challenge presented by multidrug resistance and MDR bacteria in its surgical project in Amman since it opened in 2006. The project offers reconstructive maxillofacial, orthopedic, and plastic surgery for war-wounded patients from the region, and has provided specialized surgical care for over 3,200 cases so far.

Over half of patients admitted to the Amman project with maxillofacial and orthopedic injuries arrive with a multidrug-resistant infection. Each infection means at least one or two surgical excision procedures, followed by a 6-week course of antibiotics. Meanwhile, at MSF’s emergency trauma project in Al Ramtha Ministry of Health Hospital, teams also confront the challenge of preventing and treating resistant infections.

‘’This conference represented a start for the establishment of a network of experts in the region, which we hope will lead to practical steps towards meeting the challenge of antibiotic resistance in this part of the world," said Marc Schakal, MSF head of mission for Jordan and Iraq. "However, the need for a follow-up platform is essential to ensure that these discussions continue.”

Enass Abu Khalaf