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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.