LONDON, (Reuters) – The spread of deadly superbugs that evade even the most powerful antibiotics is no longer a prediction but is happening right now across the world, United Nations officials said yesterday.
Antibiotic resistance has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country, the U.N.’s World Health Organisation (WHO) said in a report. It is now a major threat to public health and “the implications will be devastating”.
“We have a big problem now, and all of the trends indicate the problem is going to get bigger, said Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security.
In its first global report on antibiotic resistance, with data from 114 countries, the WHO said superbugs able to evade event the hardest-hitting antibiotics – a class of drugs called carbapenems – have now been found in all regions of the world.
“The world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill,” Fukuda said.
Drug resistance is driven by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, which encourages bacteria to develop new ways of overcoming them.
For gonorrhoea, a dangerous sexually-transmitted disease that infects more than a million people across the world every day, antibiotic treatments are failing fast as superbug forms of the bacteria that causes it outpace them.
At least 10 countries – including Austria, Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Japan, Norway, South Africa, Slovenia and Sweden, now report having patients with gonorrhoea that is totally untreatable.
Only a handful of new antibiotics have been developed and brought to market in the past few decades, and it is a race against time to find more as bacterial infections increasingly evolve into “superbugs” resistant to even the most powerful last-resort medicines reserved for extreme cases.
One of the best known superbugs, MRSA, is alone estimated to kill around 19,000 people every year in the United States – far more than HIV and AIDS – and a similar number in Europe.