WHO urges action against antibiotic resistance

Experts warn that without effective medicines, infections such as hospital-acquired ventilator-associated pneumonias, urinary tract infections and diarrhoea are becoming difficult to treat

By Jyotsna Singh
Published: Wednesday 09 September 2015

(Credit: somkku/Thinkstock)

Cautioning against the indiscriminate use of antibiotics and other drugs which leads to resistance to medicines and treatment failure, the World Health Organization has urged member countries in Southeast Asia to address this public health threat urgently.

"Immediate action is needed to stop the world from heading towards pre-antibiotic era in which all achievements made in prevention and control of communicable diseases will be reversed. Common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades may once again kill millions. Resistance to antibiotics will make complex surgeries and management of several chronic illnesses like cancer, extremely difficult," Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director of WHO Southeast Asia Region, said at a regional meeting in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste.

Without effective antimicrobial medicines, a number of common infections such as hospital-acquired ventilator-associated pneumonias, urinary tract infections, diarrhoea, gonorrhoea, tuberculosis and malaria are becoming harder to treat, she added. Khetrapal Singh was addressing health ministers and senior health ministry officials from 11 member countries of WHO Southeast Asia Region, at the sixty-eighth annual meeting of the Regional Committee.

According to estimates released by the British government in December 2014, antibiotic resistance will be responsible for 10 million deaths annually by 2050. Its economic cost will result in a 2 to 3.5-per cent decrease in global gross domestic product by the same year if antimicrobial resistance goes unchecked. Reduced productivity from persisting illness, and its cost of treatment, will add to the economic loss.

Khetrapal Singh said comprehensive and integrated national action plans are needed to respond to antimicrobial resistance. Countries need to strengthen monitoring of the extent and cause of antibiotic resistance, improve infection control in hospitals and regulate and promote appropriate use of medicines.

She urged that WHO Southeast Asia regional strategy, the Jaipur Declaration on Antimicrobial Resistance, 2011, and the recent Global Action Plan need to be implemented in totality, keeping in mind national priorities and context.

Antibiotic resistance is growing due to injudicious use of antibiotics by prescribers, patients not completing full treatment courses, over-use of antibiotics in livestock and fish farming, poor control of infections in healthcare settings and poor hygiene. There are only a few new antibiotics available to replace the resistant and ineffective ones.

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