A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) finds that antimicrobial resistance is a “serious threat” worldwide. The WHO report, “Antimicrobial Resistance: Global Report on Surveillance,” is the organization’s first effort to examine antimicrobial resistance from a global perspective.
Antimicrobial resistance has long been considered a major public health threat. Of particular concern is antibiotic resistance, when changes in bacteria make it so these medications do not work in people who need them to eradicate infections. But now, antimicrobial resistance 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,” according to WHO.
“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 Keiji Fukuda, MD, assistant director-general for health security at WHO, in a prepared statement. “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.”
Antibiotic resistance was identified in seven bacteria that cause such potentially serious illnesses as diarrhea, gonorrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections (UTIs), and sepsis. For example, resistance is occurring to carbapenem antibiotics, a “treatment of last resort” for serious infections caused by Klebsiella pneumonia, a common intestinal bacteria that causes many hospital-acquired pneumonia cases and bloodstream infections, as well as infections in newborns and patients in intensive-care units. “In some countries, because of resistance, carbapenem antibiotics would not work in more than half of people treated for K. pneumoniae infections,” according to WHO.
Additionally, resistance to fluoroquinolone antibiotics, which are widely used for UTIs, is “very widespread,” WHO reports. Also, third-generation cephalosporins, which are a last-resort treatment for gonorrhea, fail to treat the infection in Austria, Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.
WHO plans to lead a global effort to address the increasing problem of drug resistance. Efforts will include developing tools and standards and improving worldwide collaboration to track resistance, measure its impact, and recommend solutions.
Read the WHO report in its entirety.