The World Health Organization (WHO) has released its first report on global antimicrobial resistance, including antibiotic resistance. The organization now considers antibiotic resistance a major threat to public health worldwide. The report discusses resistance to various infectious agents but emphasizes 7 bacteria responsible for common and serious diseases like bloodstream infections (sepsis), diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, and gonorrhea.

Key points from the report include:

  • A common intestinal bacteria, Klebsiella pneumoniae, has developed resistance to last resort treatment for life-threatening infections caused by hospital-acquired infections such as pneumonia, bloodstream infections, infections in newborns and intensive-care unit patients. This resistance has spread worldwide; in certain countries, carbapenem antibiotics would not work in more than half of people treated for K. pneumoniae infections due to resistance.
  • For the treatment of urinary tract infections caused by E. coli, fluoroquinolone resistance is extremely widespread globally. Resistance was virtually zero when these drugs were first introduced in the 1980s, but this treatment is now ineffective in more than half of patient in countries in many parts of the world.
  • Over 1 million people are infected with gonorrhea worldwide each day and treatment failure to the last resort of treatment for gonorrhea (3rd generation cephalosporins) has been confirmed in Austria, Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
  • Antibiotic resistance causes longer duration of illness in patients and increases the risk of death. Individuals 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. Health care costs also increase with lengthier stays in hospital and the requirement of more intensive care.

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The WHO also outlines several strategies for fighting antibiotic resistance from multiple fronts. Consumers are encouraged to use antibiotics only when prescribed by a physician, complete all doses of prescribed antibiotics, and refrain from sharing prescribed antibiotics with others.

Healthcare professionals and pharmacists are advised to increase infection prevention and control, limit prescribing and dispensing of antibiotics only when necessary, and prescribing and dispensing the correct antibiotic(s) based on the patient’s illness. Policymakers and industries can strengthen resistance tracking and laboratory capacities, regulate and promote appropriate antibiotic use, encourage innovation and research of new tools, and foster cooperation and information among all stakeholders.

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