Operational challenges of the Philippine Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Program during the COVID-19 pandemic
Keywords:antimicrobial drug resistance, COVID-19 pandemic, sentinel surveillance, laboratories
Problem: Operation of the Philippine Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Program (ARSP) has been affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, during which time difficulties in maintaining laboratory functions, staffing levels and participation were reported.
Context: The COVID-19 pandemic has increased pressure on most health systems and programmes in the Philippines, including ARSP. As ARSP is the source of national data on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) trends, there are concerns that the negative effects of the pandemic may have impacted the quality of data produced.
Action: We describe disruptions to laboratory operations, personnel availability and participation in ARSP surveillance, and their impact on reported data for 2020.
Outcome: Surveillance operations were challenged by reallocation of human, infrastructure and financial resources for pandemic response among both the sentinel sites and the coordinating laboratory, the Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance Reference Laboratory. There was a decrease in the amount of data submitted to the surveillance system, as well as in the number of isolates sent to the reference laboratory for confirmation of bacterial identification and antimicrobial susceptibility testing. Nevertheless, overall performance scores of the sentinel sites for most parameters were comparable to 2019, the year prior to the pandemic.
Discussion: The impact of operational changes to ARSP due to the pandemic needs to be considered when analysing AMR surveillance data from 2020. Automation of data submission, good working relationships between the coordinating laboratory and sentinel sites, and supply chain system strengthening were identified as key to maintaining AMR surveillance during the COVID-19 pandemic.