The World Health Organization has surveyed the growth of antibiotic-resistant germs around the world — the first such survey it has ever conducted — and come up with disturbing findings. In a report issued late last month, the organization found that antimicrobial resistance in bacteria (the main focus of the report), fungi, viruses and parasites is an increasingly serious threat in every part of the world. “A problem so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine,” the organization said. “A post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can kill, far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st century.”
The growth of antibiotic-resistant pathogens means that in ever more cases, standard treatments no longer work, infections are harder or impossible to control, the risk of spreading infections to others is increased, and illnesses and hospital stays are prolonged.
All of these drive up the costs of illnesses and the risk of death. The survey sought to determine the scope of the problem by asking countries to submit their most recent surveillance data (114 did so). Unfortunately, the data was glaringly incomplete because few countries track and monitor antibiotic resistance comprehensively, and there is no standard methodology for doing so.
Still, it is clear that major resistance problems have already developed, both for antibiotics that are used routinely and for those deemed “last resort” treatments to cure people when all else has failed...