Principle Investigator: Professor Sabiha Essack

Professor Essack Sabiha

Professor Sabiha Essack (B. Pharm., M. Pharm., PhD) is the South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Antibiotic Resistance and One Health and Professor in Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN). She was a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow (1997-8) who undertook research training towards her PhD research at St Bartholomew’s and the Royal London School of Medicine and Dentistry in the UK.

Professor Essack began her professional career with the B. Pharm degree in 1988 and practiced as a hospital pharmacist for 3 years in the KZN Dept. of Health before returning to university in 1992 to pursue the M. Pharm and PhD degrees. She established the Antimicrobial Research Unit at UKZN and secured several research grants from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), the UK Medical Research Council (MRC), the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare (FORTE), the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust, the South African MRC and the National Research Foundation (NRF) investigating strategies for the prevention and containment of antibiotic resistance. Her research is published in several journals and presented at a number of national and international conferences.conferences (Sabiha Essack)

Professor Essack is Vice Chair of the WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Antimicrobial Resistance (STAG-AMR), Senior Implementation Research Advisor at the International Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance Solutions (ICARS) in Denmark and member of the International Pharmacy Federation (FIP) AMR Commission at The Hague in The Netherlands. She also serves as expert consultant on AMR and antimicrobial stewardship (AMS) to the WHO. Professor Essack is chairperson of the Global Respiratory Infection Partnership (GRIP), vice chairperson of the AMR Insights AMR Ambassadors Network, serves on the Advisory Board of the Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X) in the US, the Fleming Fund Expert Advisory Group in the UK, the Market Analysis Expert Advisory Group of the Global AMR Research and Development Hub in Germany. She is a member of the Wellcome Trust Surveillance and Epidemiology of Drug Resistant Infections Consortium (SEDRIC) in the UK. She served as Vice Chairperson of the South African Ministerial Advisory Committee on AMR, the FIP Working Group on AMR, the South African Chapter of the Global Antibiotic Resistance Partnership (GARP) and the South African Antibiotic Stewardship Programme (SAASP). Professor Essack was founder of the South African Chapter of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics (APUA).

Professor Essack is the Deputy President, General Secretary and member of the Council of the Academy of Sciences of South Africa. She served on the WHO Technical Working Group on Health Workforce Education Assessment Tools and on the Advisory Group of the Academic Institutional Membership Dean’s Forum of the FIP’s Education Initiative. She is a peer-reviewed member of the Southern Africa FAIMER Regional Institute and co-founder of the South African Committee of Health Sciences Deans. She previously served as Ministerial appointee on the Board of the Office of Health Standards Compliance and the National Health Research Ethics Council. She also served on the National Executive of the Pharmaceutical Society of South Africa and the Programme Accreditation Panel of the Council for Higher Education. 

Professor Essack is a key contributor on the virtual community of practice on National Action Plan Development convened by the WHO in Geneva, has facilitated a situational analysis of AMR in Botswana and Malawi and co-authored the Botswana, Eritrean and Mauritian National Action Plans on AMR. She was also the AMR lead on the Joint External Evaluation of the Implementation of the International Health Regulations Capacities in Lesotho. 

Her expert opinion has been sought on the Methodology for the AMR Benchmark developed by the Access to Medicines Foundation, the World Bank Report on “Pulling Together to Beat Superbugs” as well as the WHO Policy Brief on AMR Multi-Sectoral Collaboration, the WHO Global Inter-professional AMR Competency and Curriculum Framework for Health Workers Education and Training, the WHO Stewardship Toolkit for LMICs and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Environmental Impacts of Antimicrobial Resistance.

Professor Professor Essack’s current research interests include:

  • Evidence-informed strategies for the prevention and containment of antibiotic resistance based on (1) surveillance of antibiotic use and resistance in human, (food) animal and environmental health (One Health), (2) risk factors for the infection/colonization by antibiotic resistant bacteria, and, (3) infection prevention and control, water sanitation and hygiene (WASH), good husbandry and biosecurity.
  • Molecular epidemiology, pathogenomics and metagenomics of antibiotic resistance using whole genome sequencing and bioinformatics analysis for the characterization of antibiotic resistance and virulence genes, their associated mobile genetic elements and genomic environments, clonality and phylogeny.
  • Health policy and health systems strengthening to optimize the management of infections in the context of antibiotic resistance and stewardship.