Antibiotic Overuse Creating Superbugs, WHO Says

We often write about the issue of <"">antibiotic overuse and misuse, warning about the potential global ramifications connected to these problems. Drug resistance—specifically antibiotic resistance—has become more than just worrisome. Antibiotic drug resistance implications are dangerous, deadly, and here.

Reuters now writes that misuse of these vital and potent medications are mitigating the worldwide war against infections diseases, citing tuberculosis and malaria, and rendering existing antibiotics useless, according to a warning issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) yesterday. Shockingly, some 440,000 new cases of tuberculosis were reported to be resistant to several drugs, just last year alone and in about 60 countries, said WHO, wrote Reuters.

“At the same time, other age-old diseases are on the rise with the possibility of no cure,” said Shin Young-soo, WHO regional director for Western Pacific area, quoted Reuters. Young-soo has asked WHO’s 193 member-states to assign resources and agree to policies to fight the expanding issue of drug resistance. “Antimicrobial resistance is a global concern not only because it kills, but because it increases health costs and threatens patient care,” Young-soo added.

The NDM 1 gene, which causes strong resistance to nearly all known antibiotics—super superbugs—was detected in bacteria in New Delhi water supplies, said Reuters. We recently wrote, citing an article in Lancet Infectious Diseases, that NDM-1, which changes bacteria, making them multi-drug resistant, has been seen in drug resistant E. coli and on DNA structures that are easily replicated and passed to other bacteria. “The potential of NDM-1 to be a worldwide public health problem is great, and coordinated international surveillance is needed,” the authors wrote, quoted MSNBC, previously.

Reuters pointed out that the superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) kills about 19,000 people annually in the United States, much more that HIV and AIDS. A large number of infections are due to drug-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA, which end up costing more because of limited medications able to work against drug-resistant infections, said Reuters previously. According to Pfizer Inc., treating MRSA costs about $4 billion annually. And, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 100,000 cases of invasive MRSA occur annually in the U.S., most in hospitals and health-care settings. In the U.S., MRSA kills some 20,000 people annually, said Science Daily and, according to 2005 CDC figures, nearly 19,000 people died in the U.S. from MRSA infections; 94,000 were seriously sickened.

The WHO launched its “Combat Drug Resistance! No action today, no cure tomorrow” policy at World Health Day yesterday, said Reuters. Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said it would expedite some certain drug approval processes to in an effort to help with the issue of drug resistance. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg asked for the creation of new vaccines, said Reuters, adding that rapid diagnostic tests and special antibiotics are called for. “We are facing a situation in which the tried-and-true antibacterial drugs are losing their value and at the same time the pipeline of new drugs to treat those diseases is distressingly devoid of any drugs,” she said, quoted Reuters.

Antibiotics overuse and misuse cause bacteria mutate, changing just enough to ensure drugs have no effect on them and allowing them a wide berth to spread with increasing power. Although tempting, preventative antibiotic regimes only worsen the epidemic, strengthening the bacteria. New drugs are not immune because, as new drugs surface, it’s a matter of time before super bugs become resistant to them, too. Tuberculosis, which should have been obliterated years ago; malaria, which is now strain resistant; gonorrhea, which is experiencing growing strain resistance; and hospital-acquired superbugs are all increasing in ferocity, said WHO.

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