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News > Science and Tech

WHO Report: Overuse of Antibiotics is Creating Resistance

  • Lab assistant growing culture viruses and bacteria in the “Infectious Room” of the Cancer Institute of Columbia.

    Lab assistant growing culture viruses and bacteria in the “Infectious Room” of the Cancer Institute of Columbia. | Photo: Photo: PAHO/WHO

Published 29 January 2018

WHO reports that overuse of antibiotics is making humans resistant to E. coli and pneumonia.

World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the overuse of antibiotics is making humans more resistant to their effects making it difficult to overcome common infections like E. coli and pneumonia.

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“The report confirms the serious situation of antibiotic resistance worldwide,” Dr. Marc Sprenger, director of WHO’s Antimicrobial Resistance Secretariat.

Dr. Sprenger made the announcement at the inauguration report of the international agency’s Global Antimicrobial Surveillance System (GLASS), created in response to the uptick in worldwide antibiotic resistance.

The first GLASS report found that, worldwide, the most resistant bacteria were Escherichia coli, (E. coli), Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pneumoniae, followed by a strain of Salmonella.

Microbe resistance to antibiotics can help bacteria and virus proliferate, increase the chance of human infection and potentially kill those infected.

The number of Salmonella outbreaks in the U.S. has increased significantly since 2006, which saw one outbreak compared to 2011 when there were nine outbreaks registered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Last August a Salmonella strain sent 35 people to the hospital and left one person dead in the U.S.

The GLASS investigation, which began in 2015, studied a half million people in 22 countries regarding their levels of antibiotic resistance.

Resistance to penicillin, a decades-old antibiotic used to treat potentially deadly pneumonia, ranged from zero to 51 percent among reporting countries. Between 8 to 65 percent of those studied were resistant to ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic used to treat E. coli.

Antibiotic resistance can produce a deadly international pandemic.

WHO: Prevent Antibiotics Resistance. Source: WHO

“Most worrying of all, pathogens don’t respect national borders,” added Dr. Sprenger at the GLASS press conference.

The WHO suspects that resistance comes from overuse and overdiagnosis.

To combat this public health tendency the agency has created the Global Antimicrobial Surveillance System to create reliable and meaningful data at the international level.

So far 25 high-income, 20 middle-income and 7 low-income countries are taking part in the WHO’s surveillance system.

“WHO is encouraging all countries to set up good surveillance systems for detecting drug resistance that can provide data to this global system,” Dr. Sprenger asserted.

“The report is a vital first step towards improving our understanding of the extent of antimicrobial resistance. Surveillance is in its infancy, but it is vital to develop it if we are to anticipate and tackle one of the biggest threats to global public health,” explained Dr. Carmem Pessoa-Silva, WHO surveillance system coordinator.

The WHO reports that surveillance programs for the use of drugs to treat HIV and malaria have prevented microbial resistance to the medicines used to treat the two deadly infections. Officials are confident this type of international oversight program can curb and help prevent future antibiotic resistance.

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