According to recent studies, all over the world people are abusing antibiotics, which has led to a heightened risk of contracting superbugs that no medicine can cure.
The findings were collected in “The State of the World’s Antibiotics 2015” report, by the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy (CDDEP), and published on September 17.
So far, the interactive ResistanceMap has revealed information related to drug consumption from 69 countries, and resistance in 12 bacteria from 39 of them. Experts collected these results throughout several years, and appealed to private lab networks and public surveillance programs when there was no national survey available.
The data isn’t fully comprehensive, but it has a much broader scope than previous studies, such as last year’s antibiotic resistance report published by the World Health Organization, which didn’t include countries like India. Such regions however may be of key importance in understanding how superbugs proliferate.
For instance, in India, the Klebsiella pneumonia microbe can be considered a “nightmare bacteria”, because it is 57% resistant to carbapenems, like imipenem and meropenem. These antibiotics are considered drugs of last resort, which are tried when all other treatment options have failed.
By comparison, carbapenems are more than 95% effective against the Klebsiella bacteria across Europe, and 80% effective in the U.S.
Other bacteria have become similarly persistent in India, such as E. Coli which has become up to 80% resistant to known drugs. According to researchers, India is a “gigantic petri dish of experimentation that is resulting in highly pathogenic strains”.
Possible factors contributing to this situation are: the growing affluence of residents who can now afford more medicine, the high background rates of latent infection, and the ever-powerful pharmaceutic industry.
Overall, the CDDEP draws attention to the fact that in many developing countries, such as India, bacteria have become more impervious to modern drugs.
Patients tend to abuse such medication even when it comes to less serious respiratory tract infections, because no prescription is required. When faced with a stronger germ their bodies can no longer fight the disease, even when treated with potent, last-resort antibiotics.
The developed world is also affected by the widespread availability of powerful drugs, coupled with an ineffective policy regulating their use.
80% of the global antibiotic consumption takes place in the community, outside hospitals, and although Brazil, Russia, India and China have experienced the greatest growth, the USA remains the country with the highest rates.
On the other hand, some of the study findings are more comforting, such as the fact that Staph bacteria has diminished its resistance to methicillin, in regions such as the U.S., Canada, Europe and South Africa.
Nevertheless, experts warn that antibiotic misuse has been escalating recently, and that the only solution is for medical staff to stop prescribing these drugs unless they are essential for the patient’s recovery.
Creating stronger antimicrobials wouldn’t solve the problem, because even those would eventually be abused and lose their effectiveness.
Another measure that should be taken is reducing antibiotic use for animal growth and disease prevention, since unsuspecting humans ingest drug-laden food items and suffer the consequences later on.
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