World antibiotics awareness week

Mon, November 23, 2015

 The first World Antibiotic Awareness Week was held from 16 to 22 November 2015.

The World Health Organization-sponsored campaign aims to increase awareness of global antibiotic resistance and to encourage best practices among the general public, health workers and policy makers to avoid the further emergence and spread of antibiotic resistance.

As part of the campaign, the WHO has released a report, ‘Multi-Country Public Awareness Survey on Antibiotic Resistance’, that shows that many people are confused about this major threat to public health and do not understand how to prevent it from growing.

“Almost two thirds (64%) of some 10,000 people who were surveyed across 12 countries say they know antibiotic resistance is an issue that could affect them and their families, but how it affects them and what they can do to address it are not well understood,” says the WHO. “For example, 64% of respondents believe antibiotics can be used to treat colds and flu, despite the fact that antibiotics have no impact on viruses. Close to one third (32%) of people surveyed believe they should stop taking antibiotics when they feel better, rather than completing the prescribed course of treatment.” (see antibiotic -resistance/en/)

“The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis, and governments now recognize it as one of the greatest challenges for public health today. It is reaching dangerously high levels in all parts of the world,” confirms Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. “Antibiotic resistance is compromising our ability to treat infectious diseases and undermining many advances in medicine.”

Coinciding with World Antibiotic Awareness Week, a paper has been published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, reported in The Independent newspaper. The paper describes the finding of bacteria whose resistance to polymyxins has been passed from cell to cell (so-called horizontal gene transfer), rather than being acquired through a new mutation. This especially is significant for two reasons. First, because horizontally-acquired resistance can spread very quickly; and also because the polymyxins were the last group of available antibiotics for which – till now – to which this type of resistance had not been detected. It is thought that the widespread use of polymyxins in the Chinese pig farming industry is to blame for this development.

Combined, the news about people’s lack of awareness of the correct use of antibiotics, as well as their continued over-use in animal husbandry, lend weight to the recommendations in the Joint IAP/IAMP Statement on Antimicrobial Resistance: A Call for Action, which are still as relevant today as they were two years ago.

IAP and IAMP both support, therefore, the WHO’s campaign global campaign, ‘Antibiotics: Handle with Care’, that calls on individuals, governments, health and agriculture professionals to take action to address this urgent problem.

For additional information, see also:

See also: The Lancet Infectious Diseases, November 2015

Emergence of plasmid-mediated colistin resistance mechanism MCR-1 in animals and human beings in China: a microbiological and molecular biological study

Peter McGrath
20 November 2015