ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia – 25 September 2019.

The African Society for Laboratory Medicine (ASLM) along with its partners, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa (AFRO), the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and Public Health England (PHE), is pleased to announce a £500 000 award from United Kingdom Department of Health and Social Care’s Fleming Fund for the first phase of a project to strengthen external quality assurance (EQA) for pathogen identification and antimicrobial susceptibility testing in Africa. Using this funding, ASLM will prepare a proposal for a second-phase award of £2.5 million to implement the project.

This project will strengthen or build regional capacity to prepare, purchase and distribute proficiency testing panels for bacterial identification and antibiotic susceptibility testing across the different regions of Africa. In addition, the project will improve the participation of clinical and public health laboratories using a ‘One Health’ framework throughout existing proficiency testing programmes, supervision visits and other quality management systems activities towards accreditation, whenever applicable.

The project is part of a larger Fleming Fund initiative, launched at the September 2019 UN General Assembly, to invest in research and tackle the global threat of antimicrobial resistance to achieve the WHO Universal Health Coverage goals. A commitment to managing antimicrobial resistance was included in the UN General Assembly’s political declaration on Universal Health Coverage, passed on Monday, 23 September 2019.

Dr John Nkengasong, the Director of Africa CDC and partner in this project says, ‘A regional EQA programme for bacteriology testing based on local capacity is key to establish a sustainable antimicrobial resistance surveillance system on the continent. It will help countries to better control and prevent the emergence of antimicrobial resistant bacterial infections and to participate to the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS) and support the Global Action Plan on antimicrobial resistance, which is one of the top priorities of the Health Agenda of the African Union.’

Antimicrobial resistance, or drug resistant infection, is a major threat to public health around the world. It is estimated that, if no action is taken, antimicrobial resistance will kill 10 million people a year by 2050 with the greatest impact in Africa. The estimated cost to the global economy will be $100 trillion USD. The lack of data on the prevalence and location of antimicrobial resistance and on patterns of antimicrobial use in low and middle-income countries, including in many countries in Africa, inhibits investment in critically important surveillance systems that can support swift public health action. ‘Achieving our common goal of universal health coverage will require global action on a multitude of fronts, including tackling the escalating threat of antimicrobial resistance and investing in research,’ said Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies. ‘I am delighted to announce this funding, which will catalyse regional collaboration to help strengthen AMR surveillance systems across Africa and Asia.’

In addition to this grant, ASLM is the lead grantee of a first-round, regional grant aimed at collecting and analyzing retrospective data on antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial use in 14 countries of sub-Saharan Africa (the MAAP consortium, http://www.aslm.org/what-we-do/maap/). Additionally, ASLM is leading a consortium of partners coming together to serve as a host institution for the Fleming Fund Fellowship in Tanzania. The ASLM-led consortium was in Tanzania from 4-6 September 2019 to meet the Fellows and introduce them to mentors, as well as discuss the Fellows’ individual work plans. Partners include Africa CDC, the Amsterdam Institute of Global Health and Development (AIGHD), the University of Amsterdam, the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), Utrecht University, the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), the Infectious Disease Institute (IDI) and DATOS.

For more information about ASLM, please visit: http://www.aslm.org.

The Fleming Fund is a £265 million UK aid investment to tackle antimicrobial resistance in low- and middle-income countries around the world. The programme is managed by the UK Department of Health and Social Care, in partnership with Mott MacDonald, the Fleming Fund Grant Management Agent.

Keywords: AMR, antimicrobial resistance, universal health coverage, surveillance, GLASS, one health, EQA, external quality assurance, antimicrobial susceptibility testing, global health

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