Report Addresses Increased Antibiotic Resistance

Reader Contribution by Alec Weaver
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According to a report issued by the World Health Organization (WHO)E. coli, pneumonia and staph infections are developing stronger resistance to antibiotic medications. The WHO states that “governments around the world are beginning to pay attention to a problem so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine.”

The organization’s report focuses on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in common bacterial pathogens, which “involves a range of resistance mechanisms affecting an ever-widening range of bacteria, most of which can cause a wide spectrum of diseases in humans and animals.” The issue is made more problematic by the fact that “there are many gaps in information on pathogens of major public health importance.” The report goes on to state that there have been high rates of antibiotic resistance in diseases that are the cause of many common healthcare and community-acquired infections. Of the six World Health Organization regions with national reports of 50 percent resistance or more, five have reported antimicrobial resistance in E. coli and staphylococcus aureus (staph), and all six have reported instances of resistance in pneumonia.

Antibiotic resistance is both a global health concern and an economic issue, causing more than 8 million extra days spent in hospitals. WHO estimates the current yearly cost to the U.S. health system at between $21 and $34 billion. “Because AMR has effects far beyond the health sector, it was projected, nearly 10 years ago, to cause a fall in real gross domestic product (GDP) of 0.4 percent to 1.6 percent, which translates into many billions of today’s dollars globally.”

WHO’s report drives home that “resistance to common bacteria has reached alarming levels in many parts of the world, indicating that many of the available treatment options for common infectious diseases in some settings are becoming ineffective.” While the situation seems dire, the World Health Organization is doing what it can to help remedy the situation and has tried in years past to promote the monitoring of antimicrobial resistance.

There is currently no universalized, global system for surveillance of the problem. However, “the World Health Organization will facilitate the development of tools and standards for harmonized surveillance of antibacterial resistance in humans, and for integrating that surveillance with surveillance of antibacterial resistance in food-producing animals and the food chain.” The organization also promises to work to develop strategies for population-based surveillance, not only for improved physical health but also to prevent harmful economic impacts caused by an increased strain on the healthcare system.