News Feature | May 9, 2014

WHO Report Reveals Antibiotic Resistance As Global Health Threat

By Estel Grace Masangkay

antimicrobial resistance

Antibiotic resistance has become a current serious threat to public health worldwide. Antimicrobial resistance is taking place today in every region of the world, according to the new report from the World Health Organization.

The report “Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance” is the first global report and the most comprehensive picture to date focusing on antibiotic resistance. Any person, of any age and in any country, can now be potentially affected by this major public health threat. WHO Assistant Director-General for Health Security Dr Keiji Fukuda cautioned that without timely and coordinated action from stakeholders, the world may be pushed into a post-antibiotic era where common infections can once again turn deadly. “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,” he said.

The growing antibiotic resistance of seven common bacteria that cause serious diseases were highlighted in the report. Key findings include:

  • Resistance to ‘last resort’ antibiotic treatment for deadly infections caused by common intestinal bacteria Klebsiella pneumoniae has spread to all regions in the world. The bacteria cause hospital-acquired infections such as pneumonia and infections in ICU patients and infants.
  • Resistance to widely used antibacterial medicines for E.coli-caused urinary tract infections has now become widespread. In contrast to the 1980s when resistance was virtually zero, these drugs are now ineffective in over half of patients in many countries around the world.
  • Antibiotic resistance leads to longer period of illness and higher risks of death. Antimicrobial resistance also raises healthcare costs with patients requiring longer hospital stays and more intensive medical care.

WHO encourages policymakers to address the threat of antibiotic resistance by improving resistance tracking and laboratory capacity. Regulation of medicines and promotion of their appropriate use will also help in curbing further growth of antibiotic resistance.

Likewise, the industry and policymakers can also take part by encouraging innovation and R&D into new tools that could be used against antibiotic resistance. Cooperation and sharing of information among stakeholders will also contribute towards the fight against this major public health.

The WHO report incorporates data from 114 countries and also includes information on antimicrobial resistance in treatments that target diseases such as HIV, influenza, tuberculosis, and malaria.