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It was a forecast for the future, but it has become reality sooner than expected. Antibiotics are no longer a tool to fight infection. The World Health Organization (WHO ), which has done nothing to prevent what is now imminent, warns that there is a growing number of antibiotic resistant bugs that are spreading infection all over the world. The WHO warns that these infections can now “affect anyone of any age in any country.”

Bacteria and other bugs have changed and become resistant to these drugs, which become ineffective when fighting infections. It is “a major threat to public health,” says the WHO in a report entitled Antimicrobial Resistance: A global Report on Surveillance.

“In the absence of urgent and coordinated efforts by many stakeholders, the world is doomed to experience what the WHO calls a “post antibiotic era” where common infections and minor injuries that have been treatable for decades can now be potentially fatal”.

According to Keiji Fukuda, deputy for health and Security at the WHO, the consequences could be “devastating” because until now the efficacy of antibiotics have contributed to extend the life of the people. The doctor called for change in the way physicians prescribe antibiotics.

The report notes that resistance affects many infectious agents, but focuses on antibiotic resistance in seven common bacteria responsible for serious infections such as septicemia, diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and gonorrhea.

The report specifically warns about resistance to carbapenem antibiotics, which is used to treat severe infections such as the ones caused by intestinal bacteria, K. Pneumoniae, which is an important cause of nosocomial infections, such as pneumonia, sepsis or infections of newborns and patients admitted to intensive care units and others. The resistance to this antibiotic makes some antibiotics ineffective in many countries.

Resistance to fluoroquinolones, a class of antibacterial drugs commonly used in the treatment of urinary tract infections, caused by E. coli, is widespread. In the eighties, resistance to these drugs was virtually nonexistent. Today, there are many countries around the world in which the treatment is ineffective in more than half of patients.

In Austria, Australia, Canada, Slovenia, France, Japan, Norway, the UK, South Africa and Sweden, authorities have confirmed treatment failure of gonorrhea with third-generation cephalosporins, the treatment of last resort in these cases. Millions of people get infected with this disease every year.

The antibiotic resistance prolongs the duration of disease and increases the risk of death. For example, it is estimated that people infected with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus have a 64% chance of dying that people who are affected by strains that are not resistant. Resistance also increases the cost of health care, as it lengthens hospital stays and require more intensive care.

The report reveals that there are more and more countries that lack basic tools to deal with resistance to antibiotics, such as basic monitoring of the problem, and that many others present major deficiencies in treatment of infectious disease.

Some countries have taken important measures to solve the problem, the report says, but more input is needed from all countries and all people. Other important measures include prevention of infections through better hygiene, access to safe water, infection control in health facilities and other measures.

WHO also calls attention to the need to develop new diagnostic products, antibiotics and other tools to enable health professionals to take advantage of emerging resistance.

Since the World Health Organization knew about this reality and had previously predicted the possibility of having a ‘post antibiotic era’ but did nothing to change the situation, this new alert seem nothing else than a publicity stunt to push for more massive use of pharmaceuticals as a solution for what older drugs are not capable of doing. The WHO has also called for more vaccines as a supposed tool to prevent infections. Surprised? Not at all.

As history shows, the best tool against disease is education, not pharmaceutical drugs.

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