WHO Study: Global Rise in Bacterial Resistance to Treatment

A report released Friday by the World Health Organization indicates high levels — above 50% — of bacterial resistance to treatment around the world, based on data collected from 87 countries since 2020.

The study, called the Global Antimicrobial Resistance and Use Surveillance System report, found levels of resistance above 50% were reported in bacteria such as Klebsiella pneumoniae and Acinetobacter spp, which frequently cause bloodstream and surgical wound infections in hospitals, as well as pneumonia.

These life-threatening infections require treatment with powerful, “last resort” antibiotics, such as carbapenems. However, the study also found 8% of bloodstream infections caused by these bacteria were reported to be resistant to carbapenems, increasing the risk of death due to unmanageable infections.  

The study found that while most treatment-resistance trends have remained stable over the past four years, bloodstream infections due to drug-resistant e-coli, salmonella and gonorrhea have increased by at least 15% compared to rates in 2017.

In a statement, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said “antimicrobial resistance undermines modern medicine and puts millions of lives at risk.”

He called for more microbiology testing and higher-quality data across all countries, “not just wealthier ones.”

The study also calls for more research to identify the reasons behind increased antimicrobial resistance and how it might be related to increased hospitalizations and greater use of antibiotic treatments during the COVID-19 pandemic.



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