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Frequently asked questions
What is AMR?
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when microorganisms — like bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites — evolve to become insensitive to antimicrobial drugs, like antibiotics, antifungals, or antivirals. Microorganisms develop drug resistance through mutations in genes or by acquiring genes from other microbes that are already resistant. AMR causes current medicine to become ineffective, and, in turn, permits infections to persist, ultimately increasing the risk of spread to others. Some may better know antimicrobial-resistant microorganisms as “superbugs.”
Why is AMR a key issue in Canada?
In 2018 alone, Canada faced 250,000 drug-resistant infections, and those infections claimed the lives of 14,000 Canadians. It is estimated that around 5,400 of those deaths would not have occurred if the infections were not resistant to first-line antimicrobials. As a result, AMR is also incredibly straining on the Canadian healthcare system.
Where does Canada stand globally in terms of AMR response?
The Public Health Agency of Canada has taken significant strides toward improving the country’s international standing in the response to AMR. According to the 2018 Joint External Evaluation of the International Health Regulations, Canada demonstrated several strengths in addressing AMR, particularly in the areas of surveillance, diagnostic capacity, and infection prevention and control (IPC). For example, the Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (CIPARS) can be regarded as the global gold standard for AMR surveillance, as it combines data from human, animal, and food sources. With that said, according to The Lancet, Canada is still the only member of the G7 without a government-approved action plan that contains operational strategies, monitoring arrangements, and, in some cases, funding. It is our mission to help correct this.
What is One Health?
What does this project hope to accomplish?
We are building model options for a network that will foster interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaboration by bridging the gaps between new and ongoing AMR-specific and AMR-sensitive activity in Canada. To do this, we are using the forthcoming Pan-Canadian Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance as a foundation, so that our network can play a key role in turning its action plans into actual actions. We vow to be complementary to the existing AMR mandates and projects currently underway in Canada and hope to coordinate new endeavours along the way. Our network’s priorities will be to identify the gaps and issues that need to be most urgently addressed, to leverage ongoing efforts and innovative practices, to coordinate and accelerate actions, and to communicate opportunities and sustainable solutions. We see this project as a vital opportunity to connect the important work taking place in the different One Health dimensions.
How can I get involved?
What has Canada done about AMR thus far?
AMR is a high priority for Canada, and the federal government continues to collaborate with provincial and territorial partners and other stakeholders to increase opportunities for coordinated action. Not only is it listed in the Minister of Health’s most recent mandate letter, but it is also the subject of two key federal documents — the recent “Pan-Canadian Framework for Action” and the forthcoming “Pan-Canadian Action Plan.” Both documents cover ongoing work in both the human and animal sectors, and recognize the important work being conducted by the National Farmed Animal Health and Welfare Council and other commodity groups. So far, government investments in AMR-related activity have been dispersed across efforts relating to policy, leadership, surveillance, innovation, and stewardship, as well as research endeavours in areas such as antimicrobial discovery, antimicrobial alternatives, and effective diagnostics. However, such siloed dispersal has resulted in insufficient funding for many priority areas. Our network model will consider how to unite different stakeholders and coordinate future investments and initiatives in an equitable way so that Canada is well positioned to make significant social changes that will lead to positive action against AMR in a large number of areas.