The World Health Organization (WHO) is very concerned about the increasing resistance of bacteria to antibiotics. “Antimicrobial resistance is a global threat, both for public health and the economy,” says WHO expert Catharina van Weezenbeek. The WHO estimates that 1.3 million people die every year because antibiotics don’t work on their infections. She presented her new report Friday in Geneva.
The EU health authority ECDC recently reported that more than 35,000 people die each year in the European Economic Area due to antibiotic resistance. The health consequences are comparable to those of the flu, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined, the agency said.
Antibiotic resistance is on the rise
According to the current WHO report, between 2017 and 2021, the number of bloodstream infections caused by drug-resistant Escherichia coli and Salmonella spp. and drug-resistant gonorrhea bacteria have increased by at least 15 percent worldwide. This may also be due to the frequent use of antibiotics in the context of the corona pandemic.
Bacteria such as Klebsiella pneumoniae and Acinetobacter spp., which often cause bloodstream infections in hospitals, have now reported high resistance levels of around 50 percent to commonly used agents, the WHO reports. They should be treated with the strongest antibiotics, but according to state reports, eight percent of Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria are already resistant to them.
The WHO also emphasizes that better data is needed. In some countries, the reports only come from a few highly specialized clinics, which obviously treat only the most serious cases. Therefore, the image may be distorted.
Expert warns against “unnecessary and incorrect use” of antibiotics
The WHO sees a glimmer of hope if action is taken quickly, as WHO expert Carmem Pessoa-Silva said: Bacterial resistance to agents currently used as “last resort” remains low. If unnecessary and incorrect applications were to be discontinued, they could remain effective longer. But action needs to be taken now, not five years from now. It is also necessary to develop new classes of antibiotics.
Resistant bacteria as a problem in hospitals
Especially in hospitals, bacteria often circulate against which hardly any medication works. Experts speak of antibiotic resistance when patients do not respond to it, ie when the disease-causing bacteria are not destroyed. Pathogens are called multi-resistant, against which several or all available antibiotics no longer work.