BrandArena: Pfizer and Wellcome Launch Surveillance Program to Combat Growing Threat of Antimicrobial Resistance in Sub-Saharan Africa

Thursday 25 June 2020

Pfizer and Wellcome Launch Surveillance Program to Combat Growing Threat of Antimicrobial Resistance in Sub-Saharan Africa

Pfizer Inc. and Wellcome today announced the launch of the Surveillance Partnership to Improve Data for Action on Antimicrobial Resistance (SPIDAAR), a new multi-year, public-private research collaboration with the governments of Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Uganda to track resistance patterns and better understand the burden of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) on patients living in low- and middle-income countries.

This first-of-its-kind partnership will provide governments and health authorities with comprehensive data in four sub-Saharan African countries where there is a high burden of infectious diseases, insufficient data and lack of capacity to implement critically needed infection prevention and control programs.

As recently as 2017, nearly half (43%) of the countries on the African continent did not have available AMR data. Recent estimates project that mortality rates due to AMR in Africa could be nearly ten times that of North America and Europe by 2050 and that the economic impact could also be disproportionate, reducing gross domestic product (GDP) in low-income economies by as much as 5.6%. Timely data and effective surveillance are critical for identifying and tracking the emerging spread of resistant infections, building infection prevention and control programs and informing appropriate treatment to improve patient care. SPIDAAR will leverage the capabilities of Pfizer's existing Antimicrobial Testing Leadership and Surveillance (ATLAS) platform to support the implementation of the countries' National Action Plans for AMR as specified by the World Health Organization (WHO).

"This partnership builds on Pfizer's longstanding work in the area of antimicrobial surveillance and infectious diseases, to help create meaningful and sustainable solutions that strive to address today's biggest health challenges and protect the world's most vulnerable people," said Pol Vandenbroucke, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Pfizer's hospital business.

"Expanding on Pfizer's existing ATLAS surveillance platform, the SPIDAAR program will offer transparent and open access to critically important data in the region, which we hope will enable countries in sub-Saharan Africa to better prepare for and respond to the serious and growing public health challenge of antimicrobial resistance."

Planning for SPIDAAR began in July 2019 with government teams to identify health facilities across all four countries. The next phase of the partnership will initiate a surveillance program at the selected hospitals, where clinical isolates will be collected from infected hospitalized patients, identified, and tested for antimicrobial susceptibility. The confirmed culture will then be compared to the treatment selected and prescribing guidelines.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria change in response to the use of antibiotics, making the antibiotics ineffective against the treatment of bacterial infections. A growing problem worldwide, it is becoming more difficult to treat common infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and salmonellosis. This can lead to longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality.

"Drug-resistant infections are a huge global health threat, undermining advances in medicine and reversing health progress in countries like Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Uganda over the last 20 years," said Gemma Buckland Merrett, Ph.D., Science Lead, Drug-Resistant Infections, Wellcome. "Only through effective surveillance in hospitals and all healthcare settings can we gather the information essential to understand and track these dangerous infections, stop the spread, and protect patients. This is a complex global health problem which needs government, industry, and philanthropy working together, pooling resources and expertise, to allow health authorities and policymakers to make changes needed to prevent untreatable bacterial infections from claiming millions of lives."

The SPIDAAR program includes a separate, prospective real-world data study that will be conducted in each of the four sub-Saharan countries to assess antimicrobial resistance rates as well as clinical and associated costs among patients with hospital-acquired infections. The partnership provides additional healthcare capacity building through advanced laboratory technique training for national and local laboratory teams.

Program data will be made available on Pfizer's open-source ATLAS database as well as on Wellcome™s AMR Register. Created more than 15 years ago, ATLAS is the only industry-led, public-access platform that includes both antifungal and antibiotic resistance data. Today, this includes more than 685,000 bacterial and fungal isolates from 900-plus sites across more than 80 countries worldwide. The database includes nine of the 13 WHO priority pathogens that are considered the greatest threat to human life.

"Without a robust surveillance system, healthcare providers in sub-Saharan Africa are forced to use generalized guidelines to make prescribing decisions, which may not reflect trends in a given hospital or community," said Charles Mwansambo, M.D., Chief of Health Services, Ministry of Health, Government of Malawi. "This program will provide us with real-world data on which drug resistance patterns are emerging and where, enabling front-line healthcare providers and health authorities to more successfully treat patients while preserving the effectiveness of medicines to manage infectious diseases."

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