WHO suggests ways to tackle antibiotic resistance

UK Health Protection Agency says it requires effort from individuals, organisations and nations

A team of experts from the UK’s Health Protection Agency (HPA) have contributed to a World Health Organisation (WHO) publication on antibiotic resistance, which is recognised as a global problem and makes it difficult and more expensive to treat many common infections, causing delays in effective treatment or the inability to provide treatment at all.

‘In terms of new replacement antibiotics, the pipeline is virtually dry. But much can be done,’ said Dr Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO.

‘This includes prescribing antibiotics appropriately and only when needed, following treatment correctly, restricting the use of antibiotics in food production to therapeutic purposes and tackling the problem of substandard and counterfeit medicines.’

The evolving threat of Antimicrobial Resistance: Options for Action gives examples of action taken to reduce the spread of drug resistance by governments, health facilities and providers.

These include:

  • Surveillance of antimicrobial resistance and the use of antimicrobials, which enables resistance rates to be monitored in specific locations and hence, inform policy;
  • Educating prescribers by encouraging restrictions to a specific range of antimicrobials and prescription audits;
  • Developing guidelines for vets to reduce overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in animal husbandry.

The report also highlights the importance of infrastructure, laboratory support, staff, protocols and practices and surveillance to improve infection prevention and control. It encourages collaboration between industry, government bodies and academic institutions in the search for new drugs as well as incentives to promote r&d, fast tracking market authorisation and partnerships to promote access to new products.

The WHO advocates action and shaping collaborations between different stakeholders as well as facilitating the development of evidence-based guidance, norms and standards.

HPA chairman Dr David Heymann, who contributed to the report, said: ‘Bacteria will always evolve to become resistant and this is a natural part of the cycle of evolution but by reducing the pressures that cause resistance we can help to preserve the antibiotics that we do have and no-one can underestimate how important this is.’

Heymann added that tackling antibiotic resistance would require effort from individuals, organisations and nations alike.

‘But by working together we can help to combat this problem. I am confident that the advice and guidance in this publication will prove invaluable in helping point a way towards changing practices in our use of antibiotics and allowing us to preserve this exceptionally important part of modern medicine.’

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