News / Health

WHO Sounds Alarm on Drug Resistant Germs

Carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria
Carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria
Vidushi Sinha

As the World Health Organization prepares to mark World Health Day April 7, the U.N. agency is urging stepped-up international efforts to address the problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which are posing increasingly serious public health threats, especially in hospitals.  Here is our first of two reports.

"The scary part about these cases are it's a bacteria that is pretty common but develops resistance to most of the antibiotics we have," said Dr. Andrew Fishmann. "These are usually in patients who had previously been in a nursing home or other hospitals or have seen a course of antibiotics or several courses of antibiotics and as a result the bacteria becomes resistant to most of the antibiotics we use.''

Doctor Andrew Fishmann is referring to a potent bacterium called carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae -  CRKP for short - that infected over 350 mostly elderly patients in California between June and December of 2010.  Forty percent of these patients died within a month of becoming infected.

The germ in this case is resistant not only to the antibiotic carbapenem but to all other available antimicrobial drugs.

This strain of superbug has been reported in 35 states in the United States, but it's also caused infections in Argentina and Brazil, 15 of them fatal.   

And it's just one of a growing number of dangerous bacteria that are proving resistant to mankind's arsenal of antibiotic drugs.  The effectiveness of that arsenal, medical experts say, is dwindling fast because of widespread use and misuse of antibiotics.

"Antimicrobial resistance is increasing worldwide not only for specific antibiotics but for every antibiotic in every disease and not only for humans but also for antibiotics used in animals," said Dr. Marcos Espinal. "When you talk about TB, malaria, HIV but also diseases like pneumonia, diarrheal diseases - there is antimicrobial resistance all across the spectrum."

Dr. Marcos Espinal, who manages health surveillance, disease prevention and control at WHO, is heading up a campaign to educate patients, practitioners, and the general public about the spread of antimicrobial resistance in the Americas.

Underscoring  the seriousness of the problem - not just in the Americas but around the globe - the World Health Organization has made anti-microbial resistance the theme of this year's World Health Day observance on April 7.   The W.H.O. wants the international community to step up efforts to identify and combat these dangerous new superbugs.

The message is alarming.  Even the most powerful antibiotics may fail against these superbug strains.

Hospitals are the most common breeding grounds of superbugs. But they can spread quickly within community settings as well.

Dr. Espinal says many a times infections go undetected because more sophisticated techniques are needed to detect these potentially deadly superbugs.

"Sometimes they are happening and we are not detecting them," he said. "There is always the reporting issue is very common in resource limited countries. They don’t have all the necessary tools and types of laboratories required to do that."

The Klabsiella pneumonia bacteria, like other superbugs, are highly contagious.  They can be spread from an infected patient to other people by a simple touch, or with a cough or sneeze.  And they can quickly bring down  an infected person's immune system - allowing a host of other germs to invade the body.

"When a person is infected or develops antimicrobial resistance to a specific antibiotic - an umbrella of situations could happen," said Espinal. "The person can have the most negative outcome could die if not treated in time or the person could struggle by being sick and by spreading the disease for a long time like somebody with TB."

In today's interconnected world, with millions of travelers jetting every day to all corners of the globe, bacteria can be spread faster than ever.  Public health experts are calling for stricter disease surveillance, better patient monitoring systems, and the establishment of special committees in hospitals to enforce more rigorous hygiene and sanitation standards.

Doctors advise that frequent hand-washing, patient isolation rooms and more selective use of antibiotics can help stop the spread of superbugs.

Experts agree that the world needs a new class of antibiotics to beat the superbugs down. But they warn that doctors and patients must learn to use these new weapons more carefully.

"Remember: developing new antibiotics will also require the development of new microbiological techniques to detect microbial resistance to those new antibiotics," said Espinal. "It’s a multipurpose initiative."

Dr. Espinal says that a new line of antibiotics will help cure the infected patients but without a change of medical practices, it will not solve the problem of antimicrobial resistance.

WHO calls the growing incidence of superbug infections a major burden on society that's causing death, suffering, disability, and higher health care costs - a major challenge the medical community must face without delay.  

[In Part 2 of our report on the menace of drug-resistant bacteria, we look at the intensifying efforts by medical researchers to develop new and more effective antibiotics.]

You May Like

Multimedia US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid