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Antibiotic resistance - worldwide threat to public health: WHO

Wednesday, 30 April 2014 - 7:40pm IST | Agency: PTI

Antibiotic resistance -- when antibiotics no longer work in a patient's body and treat infections -- is a worldwide threat to public health, according to a report released here by the World Health Organization (WHO) today

The data reveal that antibiotic resistance is a burgeoning problem in WHO's South-East Asia Region, of which India is a part.

"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 Keiji Fukuda, WHO's Assistant Director-General for Health Security.

"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," said Fukudu.

The report, 'Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance', noted that resistance is occurring across many different infectious agents but the report focuses on antibiotic resistance in nine different bacteria responsible for common, serious diseases such as bloodstream infections (sepsis), diarrhoea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and gonorrhoea.

The results are cause for high concern, documenting resistance to antibiotics, especially "last resort" antibiotics, in all regions of the world. 

One of the key findings of the report cite that resistance to the treatment of life-threatening infections caused by a common intestinal bacteria, Klebsiella pneumonia – carbapenem antibiotics – has spread to all regions of the world.

K pneumoniae is a major cause of hospital-acquired infections such as pneumonia, bloodstream infections, infections in newborns and intensive-care unit patients.

Also resistance to one of the most widely used antibiotics for the treatment of urinary tract infections caused by E coli --fluoroquinolones--is very widespread.

Treatment failure to the last resort of treatment for gonorrhea – third generation cephalosporins – has been confirmed in Austria, Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Norway, South Africa, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

More than 1 million people are infected with gonorrhoea around the world every day.

"Combatting drug resistance is a priority area of work for WHO in the Region. We need to act now to use antibiotics rationally, ensuring their availability for future generations," said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.

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