UN health agency cautions on drug-resistant disease-causing germs

20 August 2010 – The ability of illness-causing germs to resist drugs has become a challenge to efforts against infectious diseases, the United Nations health agency said today, urging countries to implement infection control measures to limit the spread of multi-drug resistant strains of micro-organisms.

“Some bacteria have developed mechanisms which render them resistant to many of the antibiotics normally used for their treatment, so pose particular difficulties, as there may be few or no alternative options for therapy,” the UN World Health Organization (WHO) said.

An article published in the medical journal, The Lancet, earlier this month identified a new gene that enables some types of bacteria to be highly resistant to almost all antibiotics.

The article has drawn attention to the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and, in particular, raised awareness of infections caused by multi-drug resistant bacteria.

While multi-drug resistant bacteria are not new and will continue to appear, the latest development requires monitoring and further study to understand the extent and modes of transmission, and to define the most effective measures for control, WHO said.

The agency said consumers, prescribers and dispensers, veterinarians, hospitals managers and diagnostic laboratories, patients and visitors to health-care facilities, as well as national governments, the pharmaceutical industry, professional societies, and international agencies, should be aware of the problem.

WHO strongly recommended governments focus control and prevention efforts in four areas: surveillance for antimicrobial resistance; rational antibiotic use, including education of health-care workers and the public in the appropriate use of antibiotics; introducing or enforcing laws related to the selling of antibiotics without prescription; and adherence to infection prevention and control measures, including the use of hand-washing measures, particularly in health-care facilities.


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