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Published: 2022-11-17

The fight against antimicrobial resistance brought Erick to Umeå

NEWS World Antimicrobial Awareness Week is celebrated from 18 to 24 November. One of those fighting to spread knowledge about antibiotic resistance is Erick Venant from Tanzania, who has come to Umeå to study public health.

Text: Sara-Lena Brännström

Resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobials is a serious global health problem that grows every year. It is estimated to have caused nearly 1.3 million deaths in 2019, more than HIV/AIDS or malaria. Every year, World Antimicrobial Awareness Week is organised to raise awareness of the problem.

Erick Venant is studying the Master's Programme in Public Health at Umeå University. He is also the founder of the Roll Back Antimicrobial Resistance Initiative, a non-governmental organisation in his home country of Tanzania that focuses on containing antimicrobial resistance.

"From when I was at school, I had a burning desire to become a part of the solution to different public health challenges, and later on I focused on antimicrobial resistance. It's a complex problem that can affect anyone, of any age, in any country," says Erick Venant, who has a background in pharmacy.

Used in the wrong way

Antimicrobials are used to fight diseases in humans, animals and plants and include not only antibiotics but also drugs against viruses, fungi and parasites. In many parts of the world, these are used too often and in the wrong way – many times without a doctor or veterinarian supervising the treatment. Instead of being killed, the organisms become increasingly resistant and continue to grow.

Erick Venant has received several awards for his work, including educating schoolchildren in Tanzania on how to prevent antibiotic resistance through good hygiene and the proper use of medication.

"It's about promoting behavioural change to the community. People are misusing drugs and practising selfmedication. Here in Sweden, for example, it's very difficult to access antibiotics without a prescription, it's very regulated. But in other settings, there is a mushrooming of drug outlets," he says.

We've taken huge steps in tackling this issue

To gain more knowledge, Erick Venant decided to continue his studies in Umeå. He had read about the university's research and thought that Sweden has come a long way in the fight against antimicrobial resistance. He was also curious about Umeå, the people - and the northern lights.

Wants to work for public health

"I am delighted to see that Umeå University is addressing this issue through the Umeå Centre for Microbial Research, and that researchers like Professor Fredrik Almqvist and his colleagues are conducting important research on topics like different ways to treat infections and investigating the potential for the development of a new type of antibiotics.

This year, the theme of World Antimicrobial Awareness Week is "Preventing Antimicrobial Resistance Together". It’s a week that means a lot to Erick Venant. This year, for the first time, he is far from home, but his commitment is just as strong. After his training, Venant wants to go out into the world and continue working for better public health, not least in the area of antimicrobial resistance.

"It’s not given enough attention given the seriousness of the problem. However, it has become better. We've taken huge steps in tackling this issue," says Erick Venant.

For more information, please contact:

Erick Venant, Founder of the Roll Back Antimicrobial resistance Initiative 
Phone: 073-577 58 75 
E-mail: erickvenant@rbainitiative.or.tz

Read about the Master's Programme in Public Health