The World Health Organization (WHO) — a United Nations agency — has expressed serious concerns about emerging “superbugs” which are resistant to even the most powerful antibiotics.
In a new report issued today, WHO says viruses are rapidly developing resistances to antibiotics, making many drugs ineffective against them. “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,” noted WHO health security assistant director-general Keiji Fukuda.
WHO’s report is based on data collected from 114 countries. In every single one of those countries superbugs have started to evade the most powerful antibiotics, which are sometimes referred to as “carbapenems”.
So, why is this happening?
WHO says there’s been an overuse of antibiotics, meaning physicians have been prescribing these drugs in cases where they may not have been necessary. That has allowed viruses to slowly build up a resistance.
One of the deadliest superbugs is MRSA, or Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which is resistant to the penicillins like methicillin, dicloxacillin, nafcillin, and oxacillin. WHO estimates that MRSA could soon kill more people in the United States each year than HIV or AIDS.
With that in mind, Fukuda says it’s time we start changing how we think about infection and our use of antibiotics.
“Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics … the implications will be devastating,” Fukuda said.