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Drug resistance to impoverish 24 million people - WHO

In some low and middle income countries, resistance rates are as high as 80 to 90 per cent for some antibiotic bacterium combinations.

In Summary

• WHO says there is need for immediate, coordinated and ambitious action to avert a potentially disastrous drug-resistance crisis.

• The report blames poor medical prescribing practices and patient adherence to therapies.

WHO director General Tedros Adhanom at a press conference outside Afya House
WHO director General Tedros Adhanom at a press conference outside Afya House
Image: FILE

Antimicrobial resistance could force more than 24 million people globally into extreme poverty by 2030, the latest report by World Health Organisation states.

Antimicrobial resistance occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites are able to grow in the presence of a drug that would normally kill them or limit their growth.

The WHO in the groundbreaking report says there is need for immediate, coordinated and ambitious action to avert a potentially disastrous drug-resistance crisis.

According to the report, alarming levels of antimicrobial resistance have been reported in countries of all income levels.

In some low and middle income countries, resistance rates are as high as 80 to 90 per cent for some antibiotic bacterium combinations.

The report, No Time to Wait: Securing the Future from Drug Resistant Infections,  says drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and damage to the economy as catastrophic as the 2008-2009 global financial crisis.

According to the report, currently, more than 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant diseases, including 230,000 people who die from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

"More and more common diseases, including respiratory tract infections, sexually transmitted infections and urinary tract infections, are untreatable; lifesaving medical procedures are becoming much riskier, and our food systems are increasingly uncertain," it states. 

“We are at a critical point in the fight to protect some of our most essential medicines,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO said.

The report shows that more than a third of countries providing data to WHO in 2017 reported widespread resistance to common pathogens.

 
 

Resistance to second- and third-line antibiotics, the last lines of defence against some common diseases are projected to almost double between 2005 and 2030.

Concurrently, millions of lives are lost every year due to lack of access to existing antimicrobial agents: inadequate access to antibiotics alone kills nearly nearly million people annually, including a million children who die of preventable sepsis and pneumonia, it says.

“Although antimicrobial resistance can develop naturally, misuse and overuse of antimicrobial agents in humans, terrestrial and aquatic animals, plants and crops are greatly accelerating its development and spread,” the report states.

The report blames poor medical prescribing practices and patient adherence to therapies, weak regulation and oversight including over-the-counter sales, and the proliferation of substandard and falsified antimicrobials to be major contributors to the problem.

It further says that although antimicrobial resistance affects all countries at all levels of development, not all countries are equally equipped to respond effectively, and national plans need to be tailored to local needs, context and capacities.

According to WHO, many LMICs facing a higher burden of disease and risk of antimicrobial resistance still need to improve basic water, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities, farms, schools, households and community settings; strengthen infection prevention and control in health facilities, farms and food and feed production.