Wealthy countries such as the U.S. use more water, more energy and… more antibiotics. But a new report reveals mid and low income countries are quickly upping their use which may worsen the global threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Between 2000 and 2010, global antibiotic use grew by an astounding thirty percent. Most of that growth was in countries such as India and South Africa.
The three bacteria that pose the greatest threats to public health are E. coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus – our old friend, MRSA. In India, the resistance of Klebsiella pneumoniae has reached “superbug” status in hospitals which means doctors are fighting it using carbapenem, an antibiotic of last resort. In the last six years, the incidence of multiple drug resistance in this bacterium doubled.
The new report promotes six strategies that belong in every country’s plan to control the growth of antibiotic resistance. The first is prevention: Improve sanitation, water quality, and immunization rates. The second strategy is to lower hospital infections and thus the overuse of antibiotics by improving hygiene, surveillance, and creating an antibiotic use protocol. Next is to change the incentives that lead to antibiotic overuse. For example, to phase out broad antibiotic use to promote livestock growth. China, the US, and Brazil are the biggest offenders.
The only way we can solve the spread of antibiotic resistance is with a global focus. With thousands of travelers crisscrossing the world daily, the quick spread of infections is a real threat. Thus, the problem is clearly not someone else’s but one that we all face.