Viewpoint: Time for Decisive Action on Antimicrobial Resistance

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A 12-year-old schoolboy from Southern California dies of pneumonia caused by a bacterial infection. A 25-year-old pharmacy worker from England nearly succumbs to sepsis as a result of a urinary tract infection. An Egyptian businessman beats leukemia only to be infected with a resistant type of E. coli. Each of these stories is a real life example of the devastating impact of one of the biggest threats to global health in our world today — antibiotic resistance.

Despite the concern of clinicians and scientists over decades, and some progress in recent years, antimicrobial resistance has become one of the most serious global health threats of modern times. Although awareness of antimicrobial resistance is moving beyond the medical and scientific world in many countries, the reality is still inadequate surveillance and information, poor public understanding and insufficient infection prevention and control.

Antibiotic resistance is rising to dangerously high levels in all parts of the world. But only about one-quarter of countries have national plans to tackle resistance to antimicrobial medicines like antibiotics. This is far too few.

Antibiotics have long been regarded as one of the most significant medical achievements of the 20th century. They have transformed the course of human health. By allowing many serious infections to be cured, these medicines have saved countless lives, including those with diseases such as cancer or diabetes and people undergoing surgery — all of whom are particularly vulnerable to infections. Antibiotics have become so widely used that they are taken for granted by doctors and patients alike. Often, they are used when they are not needed. Unfortunately, this has accelerated the development of resistance.

Bacteria and other bugs develop resistance naturally to the medicines used to treat them. The combined use and misuse of antibiotics has accelerated the development of antibiotic resistance, leading to the situation in which we find ourselves today, with record high levels.

In the European Union alone, the inability to treat some infections is responsible for 25,000 deaths annually, with related costs of over $1.5 billion in health care expenses and productivity losses. It is set to get a lot worse.

Source: Devex (link opens in a new window)

Health Care