7 April 2011 | EN
Antimicrobial resistance is a growing problem worldwide
[LONDON] A "post-antibiotic" era, in which many common infections no longer have a cure, is on the horizon, the WHO warned today — as scientists reported the discovery of superbugs resistant to almost all known antibiotics in water supplies in New Delhi, India.
"In the absence of urgent corrective and protective actions, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which many common infections will ... once again, kill unabated," Margaret Chan, director-general of the WHO, said today, in an address to mark World Health Day, which this year is devoted to combating drug resistance.
"We are at a critical point where antibiotic resistance is reaching unprecedented levels and new antibiotics are not going to arrive quickly enough," said Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO's regional director for Europe.
"Until all countries tackle this, no country alone can be safe."
Last year, at least 440,000 new cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis were detected, and the more serious, extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis has been reported in 69 countries to date, said the WHO.
There are few antibiotics under development — only two new classes of antibiotic have been discovered in the last three decades compared with 11 in the 50 years before that.
The empty pipeline is partly the result of drug companies' reluctance to spend millions developing a new antibiotic, only to be told by regulators to restrict its use in order to manage the spread of resistance.
"[Antibiotic] discovery needs to be underpinned by new financial mechanisms that allow companies to receive a return on their investment in new drugs, while limiting their use to situations of greatest need," David Brennan, chief executive of AstraZeneca, told a World Health Day event.
"If leaders in government, science, economics, public policy, intellectual property and philanthropy can come together, we will maximise the opportunities to develop and implement the creative solutions that will truly make a difference to tackling anti-microbial resistance," he said, according to the Dow Jones Newswires.
The dangers of rising drug resistance are underscored by the discovery, published today in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, that a gene that confers resistance to almost all known antibiotics is present in Indian water supplies.
Scientists from Cardiff University in the United Kingdom tested water samples within a 12-kilometre radius of New Delhi. They found the gene, known as New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase (NDM-1), in a variety of bugs in two of 50 tap water samples and 50 of 171 community waste seepage samples, such as pools in streets.
Most worryingly, the study found the gene in cholera (Vibrio cholera) and dysentery (Shigella boydii).
The scientists said the discovery "has important implications for people living in the city who are reliant on public water and sanitation facilities".
They added that "international surveillance of resistance, incorporating environmental sampling as well as examination of clinical isolates, needs to be established as a priority".
Mohd Shahid, a researcher at the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital, Uttar Pradesh, India, wrote in an accompanying commentary: "Coordinated, concrete, and collective efforts are needed, initially, to limit ... widespread dissemination, and finally to combat this emerging threatening resistance problem".
The WHO today published a policy package that sets out the measures governments and their national partners need to take to combat drug resistance. It says they should develop and implement national plans; strengthen surveillance and laboratory capacity; ensure uninterrupted access to essential medicines of assured quality; regulate and promote rational use of medicines; enhance infection prevention and control; and foster innovation and research and development for new tools against drug resistance.
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The Lancet Infectious Diseases doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(11)70059-7 (2011)
Alfredo Quarto, Mangrove Action Project ( Mangrove Action Project | United States of America )
11 April 2011
Since 1992, we at Mangrove Action Project have been countering the rapid spread of the shrimp aquaculture industry in the global South. Often unregulated and ill-advised usage of a wide array of antibiotics takes place in the culture of farmed shrimp. Raised in densely stocked ponds, these shrimp often acquire different viruses that can multiply rapidly decimating whole coastal areas of their shrimp production in short time. To avoid these inevitable disease outbreaks and to ensure a harvest of marketable shrimp, most producers of shrimp in these still antiquated open, throughput systems of aquaculture use large amounts of antibiotics to quell the spread of disease. These antibiotics are used in the shrimp feed itself or directly applied within the water system of the pond, and the resultant effluents from these ponds enter the nearby waterways and marine waters where these accumulate and can create antibiotic resistant strains of "super bugs." Many of these antibiotics used are closely related or are actually the same as those used in treating human diseases, thus opening that door to antibiotic resistance that this article now warns us about. We need to close these open systems of aquaculture, and ensure no antibiotics are used to avoid this kind of dangerous contamination and the further degrading of our limited tools to fend off serious human illnesses. That little shrimp raised in India or Thailand or Honduras may have itself contributed to the concerns of disease resistant strains now seen as a growing threat to our entire world today! Such unwise use of antibiotics must be halted immediately.
Mangrove Action Project
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