Just in time for World Antibiotic Awareness Week, the World Health Organization (WHO) just released a report that tallies antibiotic consumption around the world. The main finding is that the rate of antibiotic use can be up to 16 times between countries, signaling a two-fold problem: on one hand, wealthy countries are overprescribing antibiotics, which is fueling a dangerous trend of antibiotic resistance while on the other hand. , poorer countries may be underutilizing these drugs.
"Overuse and misuse of antibiotics are the leading causes of antimicrobial resistance," Suzanne Hill, Director of the Department of Essential Medicine and Health Products at WHO, said in a statement. "Without effective antibiotics and other antimicrobials, we will be able to treat common infections like pneumonia."
Antibiotics are medicines that combat infections caused by bacteria. However, many misuse and overuse of antibiotics, many bacterial strains are developing antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistance occurs when antibiotics are no longer effective at controlling or killing bacterial growth. Bacteria that are resistant can multiply in the presence of various therapeutic levels of antibiotics. Antibacterial growth can also help with bacterial growth. Each year, 25,000 patients from the EU and 63,000 patients from the USA die who are resistant to multidrug-action.
In 2015, the WHO was called for more serious consideration of antibiotic resistance in light of recent trends. At the time, the organization stated that the world was not prepared to deal with such a threat.
<! – ID tag: zmescience_300x250_InContent
"This is the single greatest challenge in infectious diseases today," said Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's assistant director-general for health security. "All types of microbes, including many viruses and parasites, are becoming resistant. This is all parts of the world, so all countries must do their part to tackle this global threat. "
Since 2016, the WHO began a surveillance program that monitors antibiotic consumption in numerous countries around the world. Each country submitted data on drug consumption based on import and production records, insurance and reimbursement records, and prescription and dispensing data from physicians and pharmacies.
The bulk data from well-established programs, but the WHO also included data from 16 low-and middle-income countries that have only recently rolled out similar programs.
In the new report, which tallies data from 65 countries, WHO researchers uncovered significant discrepancies in antibiotic use among countries. Specifically, antibiotic consumption 4.4 daily doses of antibiotics per 1,000 inhabitants to 64.4 – a 16 times difference. This is grossly unfair because over prescription in affluent countries is causing bacterial strains to adapt, which can then move to poorer countries where there is too little antibiotic use to begin with.
The most frequent antibiotics used across all countries are Amoxicillin and Augmentin. These compounds, known as broad-spectrum antibiotics, are used to treat most common types of infections – they're also the cause of most antibiotic resistance. According to the report, these drugs ranged from less than 20% of total antibiotic consumption in some countries to more than 50% in others. On the other hand, the antibiotic – powerful last resort "reserve" antibiotic used to treat hard cases of multidrug resistant bacteria – made up only 2% of total antibiotic consumption.
"Findings from this report confirm the need to take urgent action, such as the enforcing prescription-only policies, to reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics," Hill said.
Enjoyed this article? Join 40,000+ subscribers to the ZME Science newsletter. Subscribe now!