WHO warns of 'losing miracle cures'

Thursday, 7 April 2011 5:46 PM

Superbugs are becoming resistant to the drugs used to combat them, according to an urgent warning from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The international body says immediate action on a global scale is needed if the efficacy of anti-superbug drugs and treatments are to be safeguarded for the future.

“The world is on the brink of losing these miracle cures,” said WHO director-general Dr Margaret Chan.

She warns: "In the absence of urgent corrective and protective actions, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which many common infections will no longer have a cure and will, once again, kill unabated."

The announcement is made today as the WHO observes World Health Day under a theme of Combat Drug Resistance.

In addition to its six-page policy document, events are being coordinated by the WHO on April 7th throughout its six geographic regions around the world, including Europe, Africa and the Americas.

A number of cases of drug resistance have been seen in the past year, particularly in malaria cases. The parasite is acquiring resistance to even the latest generation of medicines, and resistant strains causing gonorrhea and shigella, are limiting treatment options to patients in countries that are, medically, sub-standard.

Resistance is also emerging to the antiretroviral medicines used to treat people living with HIV.

Nearly half a million instances of tuberculosis resistant to multiple drugs were also picked up, with 69 countries affected so far.

The WHO is now calling for a renewed effort on preventing infection, rather than curing it retroactively.

“The trends are clear and ominous,” stressed Dr Chan.
“No action today means no cure tomorrow. At a time of multiple calamities in the world, we cannot allow the loss of essential medicines – essential cures for many millions of people – to become the next global crisis.”

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