WHO warns of antibiotic resistance

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WHO demands responsible use of antibiotics and warns of resistance

"Preventing and fighting antibiotic resistance together" is the motto of today's World Health Day. The World Health Organization (WHO) warns that an increasing number of disease-causing bacteria are developing resistance to common antibiotics. The world is heading “towards a post-antibiotic age,” said WHO Director General Margaret Chan.

The antibiotic-resistant bacterial strains pose a significant problem in everyday medical practice because the treatment of patients is significantly more difficult, healing is delayed or prevented, and the risk of spreading is increased. According to the WHO, around 25,000 people die in the European Union each year from infections with resistant bacteria. However, the situation could worsen in the coming years if antibiotics are used as carelessly as before, the WHO warned.

Spread of multidrug-resistant pathogens is a serious problem The spread of multidrug-resistant pathogens is a serious problem, especially in nursing homes, hospitals and clinics, where relatively many sick people live together in a relatively small space. Media are increasingly reporting infections with dangerous hospital germs, mostly the MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) pathogen. These antibiotic-resistant staphylococcal bacterial strains pose a significant health risk because, in the event of an infection, life-threatening consequences such as pneumonia, blood poisoning (sepsis), inflammation of the inner skin of the heart (endocarditis) or toxic shock syndrome (TSS) are at risk. According to a projection by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), around 132,000 hospital patients in Germany had an MRSA infection in 2008. But not only the staphylococcal bacterial strains develop resistance to antibiotics, other bacteria such as the pathogens of tuberculosis are increasingly immune to the common antibiotics, the WHO said. As part of this year's World Health Day, WHO therefore calls for “a targeted approach to reducing antimicrobial resistance and strengthening preventive measures at local, regional and national levels”.

Cause of antibiotic resistance: careless, improper use The WHO cites the careless, improper, sometimes irrational use of antibiotics in humans and animals as a major reason for the growing spread of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. If bacteria come into contact with antibiotics over a longer period of time without the medication causing the pathogen to die, some of them develop resistance to the antibiotics used. The WHO therefore urged prescribers, veterinarians, pharmacists and the pharmaceutical industry to prescribe and use antibiotics responsibly. It is important to ensure that the duration of use and dosage are sufficient to successfully kill the bacteria and prevent the disease from recurring, the WHO experts warn. At the same time, the WHO massively criticized the careless and improper use of antibiotics. In some cases, these would even be used to treat diseases in which successful antibiotic therapy is not possible, since these are viral infections and not bacterial infections. As the name suggests, antibiotics are not used to fight viruses, but bacteria.

Use of antibiotics in animal husbandry According to the WHO, the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry is particularly critical. As a negative example, 14 of 21 Eastern European countries in which antibiotics are freely available should be named, which many farmers use to preventively treat their animals with antibiotics. In this way, too, the bacteria come into constant contact with antibiotics and can easily develop far-reaching resistance. "We have reached a critical point because resistance to existing antibiotics has reached unprecedented levels," stressed WHO European Director Zsuzsanna Jakab, warning that "new antibiotics cannot be delivered quickly enough". Because it takes about ten years to develop a new antibiotic, but the spread of multi-resistant pathogens is already a problem. The WHO therefore appealed to the individual countries to better regulate the use of antibiotics and at the same time to invest more money in the research and development of new antibiotics. So far, the world is “heading for a post-antibiotic age, in the absence of urgent corrective and protective measures (…), in which many common infections can no longer be cured and, again, kill unabated,” warned the Director General of the WHO, Margaret Chan.

Resistance gene NDM-1 detected in bacteria The WHO health experts are particularly concerned about the resistance gene "NDM-1" (New Delhi Metallo-Beta-Lactamase), which has been detected in bacteria in India's public waterholes. Pathogens that carry this DNA segment are immune to almost all antibiotics, including the so-called reserve antibiotics, and the treatment of patients is therefore almost hopeless, say the scientists led by Timothy Walsh from Cardiff University and journalists from the British TV channel "Channel 4" in the Trade magazine "The Lancet Infectious Disease". In the study of the water in New Delhi, the resistance gene was detected in more than a dozen strains of bacteria, the experts explained in the corresponding article. The results of the study show that the "worrying potential for the extensive spread of NDM-1 in the environment," said Mohd Shahid of the Indian Aligarh Muslim University, the publication. The spread of the resistance gene is by no means limited to countries with rather poor hygienic standards, but the NDM-1 bacteria have also been detected in Europe. However, according to the Robert Koch Institute, NDM-1 resistance has so far been extremely rare in Germany.

DART - The German Antibiotic Resistance Strategy In Germany, the Federal Ministry of Health, the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research launched the "German Antibiotic Resistance Strategy" (DART) in 2008 to Reduce resistance and avoid it in the future if possible. Measures for the detection, prevention and control of antibiotic resistance in Germany are named, but a significant decrease in the spread of multidrug-resistant pathogens has not yet been achieved. (fp)

Read on:
The new super germ NDM-1
Resistant bacteria spread
Resistant bacteria in German hospitals

Image: Margot Kessler / pixelio.de

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