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Omani doctor on a mission to combat AMR

“As an infectious disease specialist, by the time you get involved, there is nothing much you can do for the patient,” said Dr Al-Maani, director of the Central Department for Infection Prevention and Control at the Ministry of Health in Oman. “We need to do something earlier, to address AMR on a multisectoral level and in a more comprehensive way to tackle all aspects of the problem. At the national level, yes, but it wouldn’t work without connecting internationally with all teams globally working to stop AMR,” she said. The helplessness of being called to the scene too late for patients who were previously on their way to recovery from illness or surgery drove Dr Amal Saif Al-Maani and her colleagues to lead the race against antimicrobial resistance (AMR) upstream. Since 2015 and for more than 10 years now, they have advocated for, developed and implemented a national strategy to control antimicrobial resistance.

Dr Al-Maani has led with her colleagues one of the largest AMR campaigns in Oman, with a particular emphasis on engaging the community and established a system for AMR surveillance at the national level (the Oman Antimicrobial Surveillance System, or OMASS) which feeds into the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS). For two months, her team oversaw activities and exhibitions for the community, academic institutions, agriculture and fishery sector and other sectors, private and government, in all provinces in Oman.

On Covid-19 and AMR, she explained that “If not tackled, AMR may cost the world a lot more than the pandemic has so far. COVID-19 worsens the AMR problem in two ways. Firstly, the unprecedented flow of patients into hospitals makes hygiene practices much more challenging, especially in full protective gear. Secondly, most clinical protocols would see COVID-19 patients given broad-spectrum antibiotics in case their fever is caused by a secondary bacterial infection. As a result, we start seeing outbreaks of resistance in pathogens in COVID-19 units around the world,” she said. “Globally, the worry is that COVID-19 might have accelerated the spread of AMR and development of new resistant pathogens. We all invested in the pandemic response in big ways, very fast. That has never happened before. I think it’s not difficult if the world comes together and invests in ending AMR,” she said.

WHO, 28 May 2021