Efforts needed to prevent return to pre-antibiotic era: WHO

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Dili (Timor-Leste), Sep 9 (IANS) With the indiscriminate use of antibiotics leading to resistance to medicines, persistence of infections, and treatment failure, the WHO has urged the 11 member countries in South-East Asia region to urgently address the threat, a WHO statement released on Wednesday said.

Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director of WHO South-East Asia region, urged member nations to take “immediate actions” to prevent a possible return to the pre-antibiotic era otherwise, all achievements made in prevention and control of communicable diseases will be reversed.

“Common infections which have been treatable for decades may once again kill millions. Resistance to antibiotics will make complex surgeries and management of chronic illnesses like cancer extremely difficult,” Singh said at the ongoing 68th session of the South-East Asia regional meeting in Dili, Timor-Leste.

“Already, without effective antimicrobial medicines, a number of common infections such as hospital acquired ventilator associated pneumonias, urinary tract infections, diarrhoea, gonorrhoea, tuberculosis, malaria etc. are getting harder to treat.”

“The problem is compounding, and unless we act now, the consequences might be irreversible,” Singh said.

A recent forecast of the potential human and economic cost estimates 10 million deaths per year globally and two to 3.5 percent less global gross domestic product by 2050 if antimicrobial resistance goes unchecked.

Reduced productivity from persisting illness, and its cost of treatment, add to the economic loss, the WHO said.

Singh said “Comprehensive and integrated national action plans were needed to respond to antimicrobial resistance while countries needed to strengthen monitoring of the extent and cause of antibiotic resistance, improve infection control in hospitals and regulate and promote appropriate use of medicines.”

“Increased awareness needs to be created among the general public as well as health workers and pharmacists on selling only prescribed medicines and completing its full course,” she said.

Furthermore, WHO South-East Asia regional strategy, the Jaipur declaration on antimicrobial resistance, 2011 and the recent Global Action Plan need to be implemented in totality, keeping in mind national priorities and context, to prevent and contain antimicrobial resistance.

“The current global antibiotic resistance has resulted from injudicious rampant use of antibiotics by prescribers, patients not completing full treatment courses, over-use of antibiotics in livestock and fish farming, poor control of infections in health care settings and poor hygiene.”

“There are not many new antibiotics in the pipeline that can replace the resistant and ineffective ones,” she said.

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