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Drug resistance threat "ominous"

Thursday April 7th, 2011

The growing failure of drugs to tackle infections was named today as one of the major threats to world health.

Drug resistance was chosen by the World Health Organisation as the main theme for World Health Day.

Treatments for tuberculosis, malaria, hospital infections and HIV are all facing major set-backs because of the spread of resistant strains of bacteria and viruses, the WHO warned.

Director general Dr Margaret Chan described the trend as "clear and ominous."

WHO is pressing for national governments to take action to tackle the problem - partly by promoting "rational use" of medicines to prevent overuse.

It also wants improved surveillance and for health services to be ensured uninterrupted access to medicines of the right <!assured> quality.

Dr Chan warned: "The message on this World Health Day is loud and clear. The world is on the brink of losing these miracle cures.

"In the absence of urgent corrective and protective actions, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which many common infections will no longer have a cure and, once again, kill unabated."

She added: "No action today means no cure tomorrow. At a time of multiple calamities in the world, we cannot allow the loss of essential medicines - essential cures for many millions of people - to become the next global crisis."

In the UK experts at the Health Protection Agency highlighted the growing threat from an enzyme called NDM-1, which destroys antibiotics. It has emerged in India and there are growing numbers of instances of bacteria evolving to generate it.

Some 88 cases have so far been identified in the UK, mostly linked to travel to India.

Writing in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, the scientists warn they have now found it circulating in the city of Delhi in drains and tap water.

The enzyme destroys antibiotics known as carbapenems.

Christine McCartney, of the Health Protection Agency, said: "The emergence of antibiotic resistance especially against carbapenems, is a major public health concern.

"Antibiotic resistance makes infections much harder to treat and its spread underscores the need for good infection control in hospitals both in the UK and overseas, and highlights the need for new antibiotics to be developed."

Tags: Asia | Flu & Viruses | Pharmaceuticals | UK News | World Health

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