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WHO Declares Drug Resistant Superbugs a Global Threat

Update Date: Apr 30, 2014 09:37 AM EDT

Since researchers identified drug resistant strains of bacteria, they have been concerned about the potential danger these superbugs could inflict on the global world. Superbugs do not respond to antibiotic treatment, making them a lot harder to treat. Now, in a new report, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared drug-resistant superbugs a global threat.

"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 reported by Reuters Health.

For the report, WHO analyzed data gathered from 114 countries. The researchers found that superbugs have the capabilities of evading even the strongest, most hard-hitting antibiotics, called carbapenems. The report found that in some nations, this group of drugs is ineffective for roughly 50 percent of the people who have common hospital-acquired infections caused by K.pneumoniae, which can lead to deadly conditions such as pneumonia and blood infections.

Urinary tract infections (UTI) caused by E. coli have also been harder to treat lately as resistant to medicines known as fluoroquinolones is becoming more widespread. The researchers stated that in the 1980s, antibiotic resistance for this infection was "virtually zero." Now it is around 50 percent.

"Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these global public health goods and the implications will be devastating," Fukuda added.

According to research, drug-resistant strains are the result of misusing or using antibiotics too often to treat a wide array of infections. In order to combat this growing issue, new forms of treatment need to be developed. Doctors should also avoid prescribing antibiotics for everything. WHO also stated that countries should shrive for better hygiene, access of clean water, vaccinations and more control over hospital infections.

Dr. Jennifer Cohn, medical director of Medecins sans Frontiers' Access Campaign, added, according to BBC News, "Ultimately, WHO's report should be a wake-up call to governments to introduce incentives for industry to develop new, affordable antibiotics that do not rely patents and high prices and are adapted to the needs of developing countries. What we urgently need is a solid global plan of action which provides for the rational use of antibiotics so quality-assured antibiotics reach those who need them, but are not overused or priced beyond reach."

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