Resistance to antibiotics by bacteria, otherwise known as superbugs, is widespread around the world and is now posing a ‘major global threat’ according to a new report by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The report was the first global review of antibiotic resistance and involved asking member states to report any resistance of any of the seven common classes of antibiotics in seven bacteria that cause infections throughout the body.
Resistance was found globally and the report suggested that two key antibiotics, one of which is often used to treat patients with life-threatening infections, no longer work in more than half of the people being treated in some countries. The report also indicates that there needs to be an increased incentive for pharmaceutical companies to develop new antibiotics that are patent free, affordable and adapted to the needs of developing countries. Developing resistance is natural for bacteria but the process is being sped up as a result of antibiotics being used too widely. This includes doctors over-prescribing them, patients not finishing their course, and their use to aid growth in livestock.
Significant actions needs to be taken to develop new drugs and prevent infections, and changes need to be made to how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics. In addition, research into understanding how bacteria becomes resistance to drugs, how human behaviour influences the spread of resistance and developing new rapid diagnostic devices is also extremely vital. Without the appropriate steps being taken it is inevitable that we will eventually be unable to fight even the most minor of infections, which will lead to devastating consequences on a global scale.