WHO calls for urgent action on antibiotic use

Geneva: The World Health Organisation has
warned that drug resistance fueled partly by a misuse of
antibiotics is killing hundreds of thousands of people a year
and that urgent action was needed on the issue.

"We`re really seeing an accelerated evolution in the
spread of this problem and the bottomline is that the problem
is outpacing the solutions," said Keiji Fukuda, WHO assistant
director general.

Health experts noted that few countries across the
world have plans to deal with the issue, which is ballooning
amid an increased consumption of antibiotics.

"In the vast majority of the countries -- there are no
plans, no budgets, there are no accountability lines for this
extremely serious problem," said Mario Raviglione, who heads
the WHO`s campaign against tuberculosis.

"Surveillance systems are weak, they are absent in
many places," he noted, adding that the quality of antibiotics
is questionable in some of these countries.

"Suboptimal doses are actually those that steer the
mechanism to develop drug resistance. The use of antibiotics
is often inappropriate, we call it irrational. It facilitates
the creation of drug resistance."

In addition, the use of antibiotics in livestock
production -- to promote growth and prevent diseases as well
as to treat sick animals -- also contributes to increased drug

Any drug-resistant microbes developed in livestock can
be transferred to humans through the food chain.

As microbes will always seek to become resistant to
drugs, "the problem is never going to go away", noted Fukuda.

"The more important issue is how long it would be to
step up to the plate and get action underway," he said.

The UN health agency is highlighting the problem on
the occasion of this year`s World Health Day.

It wants governments, but also civil society and the
pharmaceutical industry to come up with strategies to deal
with drug resistance.

Raviglione acknowledged that incentives would be
necessary to get profit-driven drug-makers to invest in

"If you try to estimate how much the industry today
invests in antibiotic resistance, the statistics are not
available but the best estimate is five percent because it`s
not considered the real market. Can they do more? Yes.

"But the only way is to really study incentives that
will place the industry in a much more comfortable position to
continue the development of antibiotics."


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