A range of stakeholders concerned with the imminent threat of increasing drug resistance – from government officials to farmers, academia and the private sector – convened a workshop in Siem Reap province this week to review national efforts to contain antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Participants reported on the country’s progress in implementing the national action plan and to identify future priority actions.

The workshop was jointly organised by the Ministry of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), as part of the AMR Codex Texts project, which is supported by South Korea.

This workshop began with a self-assessment exercise using an FAO monitoring tool called the Progressive Management Pathway.

This tool assessed the status of the action plan – which focuses on the food and agriculture sectors – along with the ministries of Health and Environment.

In Cambodia, a multi-sectorial action plan on AMR from 2019-2023 was endorsed by the ministries of health, agriculture and environment in December 2019.

AMR is a growing threat that occurs when drugs called antimicrobials (including antibiotics), designed to kill microbes – bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites – lose their effectiveness, said the FAO in a May 18 press release.

“When AMR develops, antimicrobial drugs lose their ability to fight infections, which leads to treatment failure, deaths and significant economic losses.

“Cambodia is actively engaged in adopting the CODEX AMR standards to support the containment and reduction of foodborne antimicrobial resistance,” it said.

“The results of this assessment are crucial for identifying issues and measures for combating AMR and the use of antimicrobial medicines in the areas of animal health and production and aquaculture, which will contribute to development of agriculture and food safety, thereby leading to improvement in public health in Cambodia,” said Sar Chetra, deputy secretary-general of the agriculture ministry.

FAO representative to Cambodia Rebekah Bell said AMR represents a complex problem that no single individual, institution, country or region can successfully address alone.

“That is why having representatives from so many different institutions and organisations come together to assess the issue represents a great opportunity to set collective actions to fight against AMR,” she said.

Thai Savuth – chief of the Prevention and Control Bureau under the health ministry’s Communicable Disease Control Department – said the ministry plays a key role in combating AMR in the human health sector.

“In its efforts to combat the spread of AMR, the ministry has put in place an AMR monitoring and reporting system, and enhanced the capacity of micro laboratories. It has also strengthened drug registration – to combat counterfeit drugs – and promoted local use of AMR data to strengthen antimicrobial stewardship and infection prevention control,” he said.

Chou Monydarin, deputy head of the environment ministry’s General Directorate of Environmental Protection, said there are close links between human health and environmental health, emphasising AMR as a great example.

“While AMR can develop naturally in the environment, the addition of resistant micro-organisms and their resistance genes to soil and water through various routes – such as inadequately treated hospital wastewater and agricultural waste – can increase the load,” he said.

“AMR is a key priority for the ministry, as it plays a crucially important role in ensuring the health of human, animals, plants and the environment,” Monydarin added.