Antibiotic resistance data from across the globe released

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a notification regarding antibiotic usage and resistance this week. The organization has warned that some countries have a very high consumption of antibiotics and there is a shortage in several regions worldwide. This disparity has led to misuse that had spread antibiotic resistance, the WHO says.

Status of countries with regard to WHO activities on monitoring antimicrobial consumption
Status of countries with regard to WHO activities on monitoring antimicrobial consumption

The WHO for the first time has collated data on antibiotic usage from across the world and has shown these disparities. The report comes from data gathered in 2015 from 65 countries and regions. The measure of antibiotic usage by WHO for comparison is the DDD or the “defined daily doses” per 1,000 inhabitants per day. They noted that it was as low as 4 in Burundi and as high as 64 in Mongolia. The WHO statement reads, “The large difference in antibiotic use worldwide indicates that some countries are probably overusing antibiotics while other countries may not have sufficient access to these life-saving medicines.”

The WHO says that since the discovery of antibiotics in 1920s they have saved millions of lives from deadly infections. With emergence of antibiotic resistance, more and more bacterial organisms are now resistant to the regularly used antibiotics at hand.

The WHO warns that the world would soon run out of effective antibiotics if this trend continues. Suzanne Hill, head of WHO’s essential medicines unit, said in a statement, “Overuse and misuse of antibiotics are the leading causes of antimicrobial resistance. Without effective antibiotics and other antimicrobials, we will lose our ability to treat common infections like pneumonia.” The WHO has urged the pharmaceutical companies to focus on creating new antibiotics that could fight against the resistant organisms. According to Dr. Hill, bacteria can quickly acquire resistance to antibiotics when they are prescribed to people who do not need them or when people do not complete the course of antibiotics. The bacteria that has been incompletely treated with an antibiotic soon develops methods to combat the antibiotic when it next encounters the drug. This causes emergence of the resistance, say the experts. Hill said that these results have confirmed “the need to take urgent action, such as enforcing prescription-only policies, to reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics.”

The WHO on the other hand is also worried about lack of adequate antibiotic availability in certain regions. The statement reads, “Resistance can occur when people cannot afford a full course of treatment or only have access to substandard or falsified medicines.” They noted that across Europe the average antibiotic consumption was nearly 18 DDD per 1,000 inhabitants per day. However rampant antibiotic usage was seen in turkey (over 38 DDD) and low coverage was seen in Azerbaijan (less than 8 DDD).

The WHO agrees that this report is far from comprehensive and complete. Major countries that are large consumers of antibiotics have been missed out. These include the United States, India and China. The countries included were mostly from Europe, four from Africa, three from Middle East and six from the Asia-Pacific region. The team needs funds and trained personnel to gather comprehensive data from the regions that have been missed out in this survey. The WHO statement says, “Reliable data on antibiotic consumption is essential to help countries to raise awareness of appropriate antimicrobial use.”

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