No one is safe from the reach of superbugs that are powerful enough to resist even the strongest antibiotics, according to the World Health Organization’s first global report on antibiotic resistance.
The report includes data from 114 countries and shows that these super-bacteria have now been found in regions all over the world. The WHO website stated that “this serious threat is no longer a prediction for the future, it is happening right now in every region of the world and has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country.” As quoted on the WHO site, the WHO’s assistant director-general said that these superbugs could soon lead to a “post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.” Antibiotic-resistant bugs already kill an estimated 23,000 people every year.
Though many bacteria may turn into superbugs, the report focused on seven bacteria responsible for conditions such as sepsis, diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted infections. For example, resistant strains of a deadly type of bacteria that can cause pneumonia and other problems, Klebsiella pneumoniae, have been found all over the world. Certain strains of it no longer respond to carbapenem antibiotics, long considered the last-resort antibiotic for this infection. Resistance to fluoroquinolone antibiotics, commonly used to treat E. coli, is also becoming widespread, affecting nearly half of patients – compared to essentially zero when it was first introduced. In addition, strains of the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhea that are resistant to the “last resort” treatment have been confirmed in 10 different countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom.
The report also discusses what steps need to be put in place in order to fight the spread of antibiotic resistance. The WHO is advocating for interventions that would potentially cut down on the spread of disease – such as improved hygiene, access to clean water supplies, infection control in hospitals and clinics and increased vaccination. The organization also suggested several things individuals can do to help stop the superbug spread. Their recommendations include only using antibiotics prescribed by a physician, completing the full prescription regardless of symptoms, and never sharing antibiotics with others or using old antibiotics.