News / Health

Resistance to Antibiotics Spreading Worldwide

FILE - One form of CRE bacteria, sometimes called “nightmare bacteria.” CRE bacteria, blamed for 600 deaths each year, and can withstand treatment from virtually every type of antibiotic.
FILE - One form of CRE bacteria, sometimes called “nightmare bacteria.” CRE bacteria, blamed for 600 deaths each year, and can withstand treatment from virtually every type of antibiotic.
Lisa Schlein
The World Health Organization warns (WHO) resistance to antibiotics is spreading to all regions around the world and is now a major threat to public health.   A new WHO report analyzes data from 114 countries.  It finds antibiotics are no longer effective in treating potentially life-threatening illnesses in a growing number of people.  

This report is the first and most comprehensive look at antimicrobial resistance.  It presents a frightening view of a world without effective antibiotics to treat common infections.  The World Health Organization says this serious threat is not a prediction for the future.  It is happening right now in every region of the world.

The report focuses on antibiotic resistance in seven different bacteria, which are responsible for common, serious diseases, such as diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and gonorrhea.  

WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security, Keiji Fukuda, says hospitals in all regions of the world are reporting untreatable or nearly untreatable infections.  

“If we take a look at an important infection like gonorrhea, this is an infection which affects about one million people per day, an important sexually transmitted disease. We now see that 10 countries have reported finding gonorrhea, which is untreatable by any antibiotics.  We have no medical treatment for this infection in many of these instances," said Fukuda.

Among those countries are Austria, Canada, Japan, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom.  Untreated gonorrhea can cause infertility, ectopic pregnancy and blindness in babies born to infected mothers.

The WHO report also notes that treatment of some urinary tract infections is now ineffective in more than half of patients.  It says antibiotic resistance causes people to be sick for longer periods and increases the risk of death.

Health officials cite the misuse and inappropriate use of drugs and the practice of adding antibiotics to agricultural feed to fatten animals as some of the factors leading to growing antibiotic resistance.

Dr. Fukuda says the health care system relies on these medicines to protect people when they are most vulnerable.

“It means that when people develop cancer and are on chemotherapy and become immuno-compromised, they are at much higher risk for complications and infections and severe ones.  When babies are born prematurely, they are in the same situation.  When we have children who are malnourished, they are at much higher risk for infection," he said.

He says similar devastating scenarios are playing out whenever people go in for surgery.  Dr. Fukuda warns more people are likely to die from these infections.  He notes resistance also increases the cost of health care, with lengthier stays in the hospital and more intensive care required.

He says effective antibiotics have been one of the pillars allowing people to live longer, healthier lives.  He warns everyone will suffer from antibiotic resistance, especially those in poor, developing countries.  

The World Health Organization is using this report to kick-start a global effort to address drug resistance.  It says nations and people should view these findings as a wake-up call for a global plan of action to tackle this growing problem.   It says efforts must be intensified to educate people and increase awareness of the looming dangers. And it says tools and medications must be developed to replace those that are becoming ineffective.

Related report by Zlatica Hoke:
 
Report: Drug-Resistant Bacteria Pose Major Threat to Global Public Healthi
X
May 01, 2014 4:12 AM
Doctors have long warned against prolonged use of antibiotics, saying that bacteria can build resistance to drugs, eventually rendering them ineffective. The World Health Organization reported Wednesday that antibiotic-resistant bacteria now exist in many parts of the world. Zlatica Hoke reports that some diseases that once could easily be cured by antibiotics have now become deadly.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs