World / Europe

WHO warns of antibiotic overuse

By Shan Juan ( Updated: 2015-11-16 17:28

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched the first World Antibiotic Awareness Week, which runs until Nov 22, in response to growing antibiotic resistance.

The initiative stresses the need to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics to maintain global health and urges everyone to use antibiotics responsibly.

"All government sectors and society must take action to avoid a post-antibiotic era in which common infections could become life-threatening again," said Shin Young-soo, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific. "Regional collaboration is needed to document and track the trends of drug-resistant infections and the use of antimicrobials".

Antibiotic resistance refers to the development of bacterial resistance to antibiotics. If this happens, common antibiotics may no longer work to treat illnesses such as pneumonia or diarrhea.

Antibiotic resistance is caused by: (1) overuse and misuse of antibiotics in humans and animals; (2) poor-quality antibiotics; (3) the spread of drug resistance in health facilities and the community; and (4) lack of hygiene.

With the theme "Antibiotics: Handle with Care"— the campaign calls on individuals and health-care professionals to take action to ensure that future generations continue to have effective antibiotics to treat potentially deadly bacterial infections.

The WHO encourages individuals to use antibiotics responsibly by always completing the full course prescribed, and to refrain from sharing or using leftovers or buying them without a prescription.

Health-care professionals are encouraged to prescribe and dispense antibiotics only when truly needed. This includes always selecting the right antibiotic, in the correct dose, and prescribing for the exact duration. They also need to educate patients on the responsible use of antibiotics and follow good hygiene and infection prevention and control practices.

Policy-makers must tackle antibiotic resistance in their respective countries with robust national action plans, policies and regulations. Sustainable programmes must be financed and implemented in order to preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics.

"We must take decisive action to preserve the effectiveness of antimicrobials before it is too late," said Shin.

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