World Health Organization warning

By Avery Wood

Current Affairs Editor


The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a report on the dangers of overuse of antibiotics.

The report asserts that antimicrobial resistance, a microorganism becoming resistant to drugs meant to treat it, is “a serious threat to public health.” If no measures are taken to prevent overuse of antibiotics, WHO predicts what they are calling a post-antibiotic era where infections that are easily treated today could be deadly in the near future.

High resistance among the bacteria that cause urinary tract infections, wound infections, bloodstream infections and pneumonia is being recorded, but according to the WHO, not enough data is available due to lack of surveillance.  Instances of resistant strains of the bacteria that cause tuberculosis (TB) and malaria are increasing, though are likely underreported. There is also an increasing resistance to drugs that treat HIV.

Patients with resistant infections use more healthcare resources and are more likely to die from their infection. The assistant director-general for health security at the WHO cites gonorrhea, saying that it affects 1 million people daily and is untreatable in 10 countries. According to CNN, at least 23,000 Americans die due to infections that are untreatable each year.

Another problem cited by WHO is the lack of standards and surveillance of the rates of resistant strains of bacteria in food-producing animals.  According to, 80% of antibiotics are used on animals. The Animal Agriculture Alliance argues that these numbers are misleading in that they do not specify whether these antibiotics are the same used to treat humans, but according to Ralph Loglisci of Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, the type of antibiotic used is irrelevant and they all have the potential to decrease effectiveness in humans.

To counter antimicrobial resistance, WHO will facilitate better surveillance of the use of antibiotics, according to their report.

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