The US-based Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy (CDDEP) released a comprehensive report, State of the world’s antibiotics, 2015, this month (17 September) that examines antibiotic use and resistance in humans and livestock in low, middle and high income countries.
The online tool, ResistanceMap developed by the CDDEP, and the report show increasing resistance to antibiotics.
“This is not a crisis that respects borders; the benefits of improved practices will be shared worldwide.”
Ramanan Laxminarayan, CDDEP
The tool and the report track antibiotic resistance in 39 countries, antibiotic use in 69 countries and probes infections caused by 12 common deadly bacteria such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. The countries include Australia, India, Kenya, New Zealand, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam.
“Between 2000 and 2010, total global antibiotic consumption grew by more than 30 per cent, from approximately 50 billion to 70 billion standard units,” says the report, noting that this finding was based on data from 71 countries in a 2014 study.
Ramanan Laxminarayan, CDDEP director and a co-author of the report, adds that antibiotic resistance is on the rise because antibiotic consumption in humans and animals is rising.
Laxminarayan says many patients are dying of infections that were previously easily treatable and that infections that could once be treated in a week or two could become routinely life-threatening and endanger millions of lives.
The report challenges the notion that the problem with antibiotic resistance is a lack of new drugs in the antibiotic production pipeline.
“Limiting overuse and misuse of antibiotics are the only sustainable solutions,” Laxminarayan says.
The report lays out six strategies easily adaptable to local realities to halt the spread of resistance.
The strategies include having improved water, sanitation, and immunisation to reduce the need for antibiotics, encouraging antibiotic stewardship, reducing and eventually eliminating antibiotic use in agriculture, and educating health professionals, policymakers, and members of the public on sustainable antibiotic use.
“This is not a crisis that respects borders; the benefits of improved practices will be shared worldwide,” Laxminarayan says.
Marc Mendelson, co-chair of the South African Antibiotic Stewardship Programme and professor of infectious diseases at the Groote Schuur Hospital, University of Cape Town, South Africa, says the report is an important addition to the growing body of evidence around the global on use of antibiotics in human and animal health.
Mendelson adds that the report’s new data on antibiotic resistance rates in a number of developing countries, allows a comparison, and could help design locally relevant interventions to halt the menace. “We are now at the stage, whereby if we do not conserve antibiotics, we will lose this precious resource, and simple infections will no longer be able to be treated,” Mendelson tells SciDev.Net. “This is already starting to happen in South Africa.”
Mendelson proposes the need to develop better diagnostic tests that are rapid and ideally, done at the point-of-care to allow prescribers to use antibiotics more appropriately.
This article was first published by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.