According to a recent study published by the World Health Organization (WHO), antibiotic resistant bacteria have spread to every part of the world. What used to be a concern primarily linked to major industrialized countries with drug-based medical systems is an expanding crisis that threatens populations in less developed nations as well.
In its first global survey on antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the WHO said it found very high rates of drug-resistant E. coli bacteria, which causes problems including meningitis, ulcers and infections of the skin, blood and the kidneys. According to the data, treatment for the E. coli bacteria is useless in more than half the cases in many countries. The survey also discovered alarming rates of resistance in microbes linked to pneumonia and gonorrhea. “We see horrendous rates of antibiotic resistance wherever we look…including children admitted to nutritional centres in Niger and people in our surgical and trauma units in Syria,” said Dr. Jennifer Cohn, a medical director at Doctors Without Borders.
While the alarm bells on over-prescribing, over-using and misusing antibiotics have been ringing for many years, very little has been done to correct the problem and no new classes of antibiotic drugs have been discovered in three decades. For example, the medical community knows that multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) is a growing threat yet it is largely under-reported. Consequently, efforts to control it are compromised. The survey also shines a light on lesser known consequences, such as the detection of increased levels of transmitted anti-HIV drug resistance among patients starting antiretroviral treatment.
Equally important, very little effort has been made to educate and inform citizens about the potent anti-pathogenic compounds found in herbs and other plant-based foods. Many of these natural options are proven to be more effective than antibiotic drugs but there is little financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies and medical scientists to study them. Considering experts like Dr. Sally Davies, Britain’s Chief Medical Officer, have placed the threat of drug resistance on equal footing with terrorism and referred to it as a “ticking time bomb,” international coordination and innovative thinking is required to minimize the damage.
The global survey on AMR may be an early warning signal for individuals to start taking greater control of their own health to build stronger immunity against superbugs. According to Dr. Keiji Fukuda, one of the WHO’s assistant director-generals, “the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.”
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