More than a million people die each year due to infections that can’t be cured by currently available antibiotics. This number could grow without urgent action by governments around the world to address antimicrobial resistance. According to a paper by scientists at Sinai Health and published this week in the Lancet Regional Health –Americas. Canada is lagging behind other high income countries when it comes to taking action on antimicrobial resistance.

In the paper, lead author Deborah Somanader, Research Coordinator at the Sinai Health-University Health Network Antimicrobial Stewardship Program and a group of experts from across multiple sectors argue that Canada should take action by incorporating antimicrobial resistance (AMR) initiatives into programs that have been created and funded to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Addressing the issue of AMR is aligned with some components of the proposed action plan for COVID-19 mitigation and recovery by the Federal Government,” says Deborah. “Incorporating AMR mitigation efforts into these existing initiatives would enable us to make progress.”

The areas of opportunity the paper outlines include:

  • Development of infectious disease diagnostics and therapeutics.
  • Antimicrobial stewardship interventions in long-term care and in Indigenous communities.
  • Environmental monitoring of AMR.
  • Comprehensive antimicrobial use and AMR surveillance.
  • Support for capacity-building in low and middle-income countries.

Deborah says that ultimately, what is needed is a national and coordinated strategy built around the Pan-Canadian Framework for Action Against AMR. There is currently a Pan-Canadian AMR action plan in development. In the meantime, the paper by Deborah and her colleagues proposes action Canada can take on this urgent issue that requires global cooperation.

Antimicrobial Stewardship at Sinai Health  

One of the key drivers of antimicrobial resistance is over-use of antibiotics. Sinai Health and University Health Network partnered to address this issue by creating the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program, an evidence-based approach to transform the way antibiotics are prescribed and used in clinical practice. The program, which is an interprofessional and joint initiative with the University Health Network, was established by Dr. Andrew Morris, in 2009.