May 2, 2014

W.H.O: Antibiotic resistance a 'major threat to public health', a bigger crisis than the AIDS epidemic

'Antibiotic resistance is now a bigger crisis than the AIDS epidemic': Impact of superbugs means you could die from a simple scratch

Antibiotic resistance is now a bigger crisis than the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, a landmark report warned today. The spread of deadly superbugs that evade even the most powerful antibiotics is happening across the world, United Nations officials have confirmed. The effects will be devastating - meaning a simple scratch or urinary tract infection could kill

Antibiotic resistance has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country, the U.N.'s World Health Organization (WHO) said in a report.
It is now a major threat to public health, of which 'the implications will be devastating'.

'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 Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's assistant director-general for health security.

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Drug resistance is driven by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, which encourages bacteria to develop new ways of overcoming them.  Only a handful of new antibiotics have been developed and brought to market in the past few decades, and it is a race against time to find more as bacterial infections increasingly evolve into superbugs resistant to even the most powerful last-resort medicines reserved for extreme cases.

One of the best known superbugs, MRSA, is alone estimated to kill around 19,000 people every year in the U.S. - far more than HIV and AIDS - and a similar number in Europe.

What can an individual do about all this?  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends

  • Ask if tests will be done to make sure the right antibiotic is prescribed.
  • Take antibiotics exactly as the doctor prescribes. Do not skip doses. Complete the prescribed course of treatment, even when you start feeling better.
  • Only take antibiotics prescribed for you; do not share or use leftover antibiotics. Antibiotics treat specific types of infections. Taking the wrong medicine may delay correct treatment and allow bacteria to multiply.
  • Do not save antibiotics for the next illness. Discard any leftover medication once the prescribed course of treatment is completed.
  • Do not ask for antibiotics when your doctor thinks you do not need them. Remember antibiotics have side effects.
  • Prevent infections by practicing good hand hygiene and getting recommended vaccines.
Posted by Jill Fallon at May 2, 2014 11:28 AM | Permalink