Drug-resistant bacteria are one of the biggest challenges mankind has to face in the near, as well as distant, future. In a recent survey conducted by the World Health Organization it was revealed that only 34 out of 133 questioned countries have even a basic plan to combat the misuse of antibiotics fuelling drug resistance and encouraging the development of superbugs.

“This is the single greatest challenge in infectious diseases today,” said Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security. “All types of microbes, including many viruses and parasites, are becoming resistant. This is happening in all parts of the world, so all countries must do their part to tackle this global threat.”

Image via New Perth Animal Hospital.

Indeed, this is a global challenge, so that world must act together to fight it; of course, you’d expect developed countries to lead the way, but everybody needs to have at least a basic plan, so that the efforts can be coordinated together. However, that’s not happening in the world right now. Most countries are simply not aware of this problem, or have not taken any steps to prepare themselves to deal with it, even though it threatens us all.

The issue is pressing – this is not just a distant threat looming in tomorrow’s future, it’s something that’s already happening. Superbug infections, including multi-drug-resistant forms of TB already kill hundreds of thousands every year, and the number will only increase as time passes.

Counterfeit and low-quality drugs have also been reported in many regions, which can cause numerous problems – either missing the active ingredient or having it but not in the right dosage. This was of particular concern in the African region, where it was a “general problem,” the report found.

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Commenting on the WHO’s report, Mike Turner, head of infection and immunobiology at international health charity The Wellcome Trust emphasized the magnitude of the issue.

“Yet in most areas of the world we have no idea which drugs are being sold to whom and for what purpose. This is an appalling state of affairs,” he said. “We cannot hope to stop bacteria becoming resistant to drugs unless we have simple, basic information in place.”

The report also found that monitoring, something which is crucial to understanding drug-resistance is almost always infrequent, and that sales of antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines without prescription remain widespread. There is also an issue of public awareness – or better put, the lack of any public awareness. Lack of programmes to prevent and control hospital-acquired infections remains a major problem even in the developed countries, but most people aren’t even aware of this.

This is also the kind of problem on which all of us can contribute – for the better or for the worse. The first thing you should do is make sure you only take antibiotics when you really need it, and only at the doctor’s advice. Also, when taking an antibiotic treatment, make sure you take it properly: the right dosage, the right time, and all the way! Many people think that just because they’re feeling better they should stop taking the treatment, but that’s a definite no-no.

Most governments don’t seem particularly interested in this issue, but we can all play our part. Let’s make it count.

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