No action today, no cure tomorrow
April 08, 2011
World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April to mark the founding of World Health Organization (WHO). Each year, the Organization selects a key health issue, and encourages people from all ages and all backgrounds to hold events that highlight the significance of this issue for good health and well-being. World Health Day provides a unique opportunity for communities from across the world to come together for one day to promote actions that can improve our health. We live in an era in which we depend on antibiotics, and other antimicrobial medicines to treat conditions those decades ago, or even a few years ago in the case of HIV/AIDS, would have proved fatal. When antimicrobial resistance - also known as drug resistance - occurs, it renders these medicines ineffective. For World Health Day 2011, WHO will be calling for intensified global commitment to safeguard these medicines for future generations? Antimicrobial resistance - the theme of World Health Day 2011 - and its global spread, threatens the continued effectiveness of many medicines used today to treat infectious diseases. Most of us live longer and healthier lives today, partly because powerful and effective medicines – known as antimicrobials – are available to treat infectious diseases. Until the discovery and availability of antimicrobials in the 1940s, people died needlessly from infectious diseases. Today, none of us can imagine living in a world without antimicrobials. According to WHO statistics, about 440 000 new cases of multi-drug-resistant brucellosis (MDR-TB) emerge annually, causing at least 150 000 deaths. Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) has been reported in 64 countries to date. Resistance to earlier generation anti-malarial medicines such as chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine is widespread in most malaria-endemic countries. Falciparum malaria parasites resistant to artemisinins are emerging in South-East Asia; infections show delayed clearance after the start of treatment (indicating resistance). A high percentage of hospital-acquired infections are caused by highly resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and vancomycin-resistant enterococci. Resistance is an emerging concern for treatment of HIV infection, following the rapid expansion in access to antiretroviral medicines in recent years; national surveys are underway to detect and monitor resistance. Ciprofloxacin is the only antibiotic currently recommended by WHO for the management of bloody diarrhoea due to higella organisms, now that widespread resistance has developed to other previously effective antibiotics. But rapidly increasing prevalence of resistance to ciprofloxacin is reducing the options for safe and efficacious treatment of shigellosis, particularly for children. New antibiotics suitable for oral use are badly needed. AMR has become a serious problem for treatment of gonorrhoea (caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae), involving even “last-line” oral cephalosporins, and is increasing in prevalence worldwide. Untreatable gonococcal infections would result in increased rates of illness and death, thus reversing the gains made in the control of this sexually transmitted infection. New resistance mechanisms, such as the beta-lactamase NDM-1, have emerged among several gram-negative bacilli. This can render powerful antibiotics, which are often the last defence against multi-resistant strains of bacteria, ineffective. We are now on the brink of losing this precious arsenal of medicines. The use and misuse of antimicrobials in human medicine and animal husbandry over the past 70 years have increased the number and types of micro organisms resistant to these medicines, causing deaths, greater suffering and disability, and higher health-care costs. If this phenomenon continues unchecked, many infectious diseases risk becoming uncontrollable and could derail progress made towards reaching the health related United Nations Millennium Development Goals for 2015. Furthermore, the growth of global trade and travel allows resistant organisms to spread worldwide within hours. For World Health Day 2011, WHO will call on governments and stakeholders to implement the policies and practices needed to prevent and counter the emergence of highly resistant microorganisms?