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Researchers call for more research on antimicrobial resistance in Central America

A new study shows that even although the growing peril of antimicrobial resistance is a global threat, there isnot enough information about the prevalence of community-acquired antimicrobial resistance in Central America.

The study, led by researchers from Berkeley Public Health and the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in October.

“A lot of research on antimicrobial resistance is focused on clinical settings,” said Lauren O’Neal, first author of the study and recent Berkeley Public Health MPH.

Indeed, research shows that antimicrobials are also misused and spread outside of healthcare facilities. For example, the overuse of antimicrobials in the food and agriculture industry can fuel resistant pathogens from animals and plants to humans.

Through a systematic literature review, O’Neal and other researchers identified only 20 community acquired antimicrobial resistance studies from the Central America region in the past 50 years. The majority of these studies were conducted in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, while other countries in Central American had only one or no studies.

“You will see reporting from the Americas, but when you actually look into it, a lot of reporting doesn’t come out of Central America and figures much more reflect countries with larger laboratory capacities like the United States,” said O’Neal.

Another reason for the lack of community-level research in Central America is that most clinical studies in the region don’t usually include where blood and urine samples come from. Without knowing the sample sources, it is challenging for researchers to determine whether the studies reflect antimicrobial-resistant levels in clinical or community settings.

O’Neal and her fellow authors call for more research to better understand  how people in Central America become antimicrobial-resistant in community settings. And it’s necessary for future research to adopt WHO’s One Health framework, an interdisciplinary approach to consider the interconnections between people, animals, plants and environment.

“It’s super important to consider interdisciplinary viewpoints because there are so many drivers of antimicrobial resistance that are relevant to different fields,” said O’Neal.