Officials from the World Health Organization warned this week that the workhorse medications we rely on to keep viruses, bacteria and other pathogens in check are in danger of becoming obsolete.
In every region of the globe, health officials have witnessed “very high rates of resistance” to antimicrobial drugs designed to fight bugs like Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Klebsiella pneumoniae, according to a new report. These bugs cause pneumonia and infections in the bloodstream, open wounds and the urinary tract.
All six of the WHO’s regions include at least one country in which at least half of the strains of Streptococcus pneumoniae are resistant to penicillin and at least half of K. pneumoniae strains are resistant to cephalosporin drugs, the report said.
In addition, five of the six WHO regions include at least one country where at least half of the strains of S. aureus are resistant to methicillin. Also, five of the six regions have at least one country where half of the E. coli strains are now drug-resistant, according to the report.
Unless the WHO and its 194 member states get serious about tracking these drug-resistant pathogens, health officials will have no chance to contain their spread, the report said. To that end, the organization will take a lead role in developing surveillance systems to track these bugs in both people and livestock.
If the international community fails to cooperate, “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,” Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security, said in a statement.