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Antibiotic Resistance is a Major Global Threat tp Public Health: WHO Report
May 13, 2014

Resistance to antibiotics poses a major global threat to public health, says a new report by the World Health Organization (WHO). The report analysed data from 114 countries and said resistance was happening now in every region of the world. It described a post-antibiotic era, where people die from simple infections that have been treatable for decades. There were likely to be devastating implications unless significant action was taken urgently.

The report focused on seven different bacteria responsible for common serious diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and blood infections. It suggested two key antibiotics no longer work in more than half of people being treated in some countries. What urgently needed is a solid global plan of action which provides for the rational use of antibiotics. One of them—Carbapenem—is a so-called last-resort drug used to treat people with life-threatening infections such as pneumonia, bloodstream infections, and infections in newborns, caused by the bacteria K.pneumoniae.

Bacteria naturally mutate to eventually become immune to antibiotics, but the misuse of these drugs—such as doctors over-prescribing them and patients failing to finish courses—means it is happening much faster than expected.

The WHO says more new antibiotics need to be developed, while governments and individuals should take steps to slow the process of growing resistance. Resistance to antibiotics for E.coli urinary tract infections had increased from virtually zero in the 1980s to being ineffective in more than half of cases today. In some countries, resistance to antibiotics used to treat the bacteria would not work in more than half of people treated.

The report called for better hygiene, access to clean water, infection control in healthcare facilities, and vaccination to reduce the need for antibiotics. WHO's report should be a wake-up call to governments to introduce incentives for industry to develop new, affordable antibiotics that do not rely patents and high prices and are adapted to the needs of developing countries. It is vital microbiologists and other researchers worked together to develop new approaches to tackle antimicrobial resistance. These approaches will include new antibiotics, but should also include studies to develop new rapid-diagnostic devices, fundamental research to understand how microbes become resistant to drugs, and how human behaviour influences the spread of resistance.

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