A Trip to Meet the “Mother of Georgia”

By Danielle M. Agnello {@DannyAgnello_GH}

Edited by Sinéad O’Ferrall


 

When you hear the phrase, “Antimicrobial resistance (AMR),” does it send chills down your spine, or make you quickly reach for the phone to call you doctor?

Well I know it is not necessarily a household name yet, or even something most health professionals or public health specialists are talking about, however, would you believe me when I say that it is probably the most important health issue of our time?!

For those of you who have not heard of AMR, it is the process by which microorganisms naturally become resistant to antimicrobials (antibacterials, antifungals, antivirals, and antiparasitics.). Essentially, it is how microbes adapt to the medicines we develop so they can survive, true Darwinian evolution at work. A great video by Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance (JPIAMR) explains how it works (in the case of antibiotics).

Currently the World Health Organization (WHO) has been active in involving the pharmaceutical, agriculture, medical, and laboratory sectors in the fight against increasing resistance, in addition to promoting and assisting in the implementation of national and international action plans, and strategies that can combat this very real and dangerous threat.

  AMR 1

Luckily, as an intern with the friendly and intelligent AMR team at the World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, I was invited to join the week-long mission trip to the beautiful Tbilisi, Georgia! This mission was intended to finalize the steps needed to initiate an exciting and ground-breaking pilot study on AMR capacity building in the healthcare sector in Georgia!

This study, which involved the local National Center for disease Control (NCDC), the Georgia-WHO Country office, and two brilliant collaborators (from The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment and The University Hospital for Infectious Disease, Croatia), aims to increase the capacity of existing health infrastructure in Georgia to properly test and treat bacterial infections in hospital patients! What a great way to make sure that patients can receive properly targeted and effective care, while still tracking and potentially reducing antibiotic resistance in Georgia.

AMR 4 AMR 3

Not only was the country beautiful, the wine tasty, and the people I worked with inspiring, it was also a perfect way to experience how WHO work occurs “in the field,” supporting and motivating action at the country level. We spent the week visiting hospitals and laboratories, meeting with hospital directors, as well as interacting with the physicians and microbiologist who will be involved in the study. This was a fantastic opportunity to discover how this study could be tailored to fit the participants’ needs, the cultural context, and what it can mean in the future for the hospitals and laboratories involved! I really could sense how the hospital staff felt that being involved in this study was beneficial for them, and how they felt pride in being the first country to undertake this endeavor, paving the way as an example for their neighboring countries to follow.

AMR 5

So the next time someone tries to tell you that the WHO staff only sits behind desk typing away, implementing action plans without ever taking action, you can say you know someone who witnessed first-hand all the great work the organization is doing, and the appreciation of the countries they are doing this work for.

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