Three-quarters of countries do not have plans in place to preserve antimicrobial medicines, the World Health Organization says. The body has repeatedly warned that the globe is heading into a “post-antibiotic era” in which much of modern medicine becomes impossible. Its report showed “a lot more needs to be done” to prevent the rise of resistance in a range of infections. Experts said it was an “appalling state of affairs”.
It is in the very nature of microbes to develop resistance to the drugs we use against them. If the drugs stop working, then common infections, such as tuberculosis, will kill again. Surgery and cancer treatment are also reliant on the drugs to keep patients alive. While much of the attention has been on antibiotics, there are also warnings around HIV resistance to antiviral drugs and the malaria parasite becoming resistant to the last treatment.
In advance of a meeting of the WHO’s World Health Assembly next month, officials have assessed the state of 133 countries’ efforts to combat the problem.Their report showed that only 34 countries had a “national plan” for how to deal with rising levels of resistance.
Dr Charles Penn, co-ordinator for antimicrobial resistance at the WHO, told the BBC News website: “Antimicrobial medicines are a very precious and valuable resource and something we cannot take for granted. “This is the first report to capture on a worldwide basis what is currently being done. “Only one in four had in place a national action plan and that’s too few, a lot more needs to be done. “Public awareness of the issue is low in all regions, many people still believe antibiotics that kill bacteria will work for viruses such as the common cold or flu.”
The meeting of the World Health Assembly in May will discuss a global plan for all countries to adopt. “We need the world to act as a whole, we need all countries to put things in place to address the problem and for every country to be travelling in the same direction,” said Dr Penn. Commenting on the report, Dr Mike Turner from the Wellcome Trust medical charity, said: “Drug-resistant infections are one of the biggest threats to the future of global health.
“Yet in most areas of the world we have no idea which drugs are being sold to whom and for what purpose. This is an appalling state of affairs. “We cannot hope to stop bacteria becoming resistant to drugs unless we have simple, basic information in place.”