WHO: Antibiotic Resistance a Worldwide Threat to Public Health

GENEVA - A new report by WHO is the first to look at antimicrobial resistance, including antibiotic resistance. It reveals that this serious threat is no longer a prediction for the future. It is happening right now in every region of the world and has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country. Antibiotic resistance is when bacteria change so antibiotics no longer work in people who need them to treat infections. It is now a major threat to public health.

“Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill,” says Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security. “Effective antibiotics have been one of the pillars allowing us to live longer, live healthier, and benefit from modern medicine. Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these global public health goods and the implications will be devastating.”

The report titled "Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance", notes that resistance is occurring across many different infectious agents. The report focuses on antibiotic resistance in seven different bacteria responsible for common, serious diseases. The bacteria examined includes bloodstream infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and gonorrhea. The results are cause for high concern. Of particular concern are especially “last resort” antibiotics in all regions of the world.

Antibiotic resistance causes people to be sick for longer and increases the risk of death. For example, people with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) are estimated to be 64% more likely to die than people with a non-resistant form of the infection. Resistance also increases the cost of health care with lengthier stays in hospital and more intensive care required.

While some countries have taken important steps in addressing the problem, every country and individual needs to do more. Other important actions include preventing infections from happening in the first place. This can be done through better hygiene, access to clean water, infection control in health-care facilities, and vaccination–to reduce the need for antibiotics.

People can help tackle resistance by using antibiotics only when prescribed by a doctor. They should always take the full prescription, even if they feel better. Also, never sharing antibiotics with others or using leftover prescriptions will help curb resistance.

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