We talk to a pediatrician about the uphill battle against antimicrobial resistance

I recently checked in with Kofi Hope, a pediatrician and microbiologist at the Children’s National Health System, to ask about antimicrobial resistance. Hope has contributed to a series of posts at Vox related to…

We talk to a pediatrician about the uphill battle against antimicrobial resistance

I recently checked in with Kofi Hope, a pediatrician and microbiologist at the Children’s National Health System, to ask about antimicrobial resistance. Hope has contributed to a series of posts at Vox related to the issue. He’s also been the director of The Center for Antimicrobial Resistance Research at The Medical College of Virginia, as well as a postdoctoral fellow at the Van Andel Research Institute, where he studies antibiotic resistance.

Hope, who is Kenyan and a resident of Annapolis, Maryland, has been outspoken in his opposition to the anti-vaccine movement. He calls it a fringe group “whose members I want to help heal, not hurt.” He also describes it as “powerful drugs killing intelligent, resilient organisms.”

We spoke earlier this week about the anti-vaxxers — and why we must do everything we can to prevent them from harming or killing babies. Click on the following player to hear the entire conversation.

I mentioned to Hope that “online anti-vaxxers today can in a blink be more effective in misinforming and hurting people than in adopting that knowledge into real medicine.”

Hope responded: “It’s easy to make anti-vaxxers pandemic villains, but they aren’t the only ones acting like they’re on ‘Squid Game.’”

Hope says that part of the problem is that many of the anti-vaxxers are “not particularly scholarly and are uninformed in a lot of ways. So there’s a lot of noise in the information sphere.”

He said that “we also don’t know what we’re doing yet” when it comes to fighting antimicrobial resistance. He notes that there are multiple kinds of threats and that it’s important to focus on the ones that pose the most harm.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a complex problem, but antimicrobial resistance in babies is an easy target for both the public and the media,” he wrote in an email.

Hope also told me that “rather than focusing on the systemic problems” of antimicrobial resistance “we need to focus on the individual lives of children, particularly premature children. … We need to educate parents that they can vaccinate their child against an infectious disease, but it is also important for them to be informed, so they make informed decisions.”

Hope has also worked at the university of Minnesota, treating more than 6,000 children each year with infectious diseases. He said he’s concerned that “with the number of people vaccinated who are now not receiving their treatments, we are moving backwards in the fight against these diseases.”

Hope made the comment during a two-week reporting trip this year to Ghana, where he saw the effects of infectious diseases firsthand. Hope and his wife — a pediatrician herself — have recently started an infant-focused health advocacy group. It’s called Child Healers. Hope, who says he grew up in Kenya, based the moniker off a child-healer religion that he grew up watching his mother practice.

Hope’s blog post featuring the visit to Ghana can be read here.

Omar Sacirbey and Ian Shapira co-wrote this post.

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