Antibiotic Resistance: A Global Threat

Antibiotic resistance in WHO report found to be global threat to public health

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Antibiotic resistance has been getting more and more attention in this country as more experts warn against it. Now, a major report has examined the problem on a worldwide scale.

The new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) was the first from the organization to explore antimicrobial and antibiotic resistance — when a microorganism, like bacteria or a parasite, adapts and is able to withstand exposure to a medication intended to kill it.

WHO reported that antimicrobial resistance is now affecting people of all ages in every region of the world and that action is needed on both governmental and personal levels.

"Always take medications as prescribed by your doctor."

"Antibiotic resistance causes people to be sick for longer and increases the risk of death," explained WHO. "For example, people with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) are estimated to be 64 percent more likely to die than people with a non-resistant form of the infection."

The WHO report, which was produced with help from a number of different nations, focused on several different common bacteria that cause issues like diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and sepsis (a severe infection that affects the whole body and the bloodstream).

It was found that for one of these bacteria, Klebsiella, commonly indicated in hospital-acquired infections, instances of resistance to last-resort antibiotics have now been reported in every one of WHO's six regions of the world. WHO noted that in some countries, antibiotics aimed at treating Klebsiella pneumoniae infections fail to work in over half of patients.

Similar findings were found for Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections. In some countries, antibiotic treatment to fight these infections also fail to work in over half of patients.

Failure of last resort treatment methods for gonorrhea infections due to antibiotic resistance have now been reported in ten countries: Austria, Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

In a WHO press release, Keiji Fukuda, MD, MPH, Assistant Director-General for Health Security with WHO, stressed the importance of the report's findings.

“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,” said Dr. Fukuda.

“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 warned.

Some of the actions recommended by WHO include the implementation of better systems to track antibiotic resistance and prevention of initial infections through steps like infection control methods in hospitals.

On a more individual level, WHO stressed the importance of using only antibiotics that were prescribed by a doctor, using the full and complete prescription, even if symptoms have improved, and never sharing prescription antibiotic medications.

Review Date: 
April 30, 2014
Last Updated:
May 1, 2014