China's Health Ministry warns of rise of drug resistant diseases

China’s Health Ministry and the World Health Organization warned Thursday that drug resistant forms of diseases like tuberculosis are on the rise in China due to the overuse of antibiotics and that urgent action is needed.

The WHO said that superbugs - antibiotic resistant infections - have reached unprecedented levels and that these infections threaten to return the world to a pre-penicillin era where small infections can still be deadly, Today Online reports.

In China, around 6.8 percent of tuberculosis cases are classified as multiple-drug resistant, which is much higher than the two percent rate found in most developing countries, according to Dr. Michael O’ Leary, the WHO’s representative in China.

“Infections caused by resistant micro-organisms often fail to respond to conventional treatment, resulting in prolonged illness and greater risk of death,” O’ Leary said, according to Today Online.

The overuse of antibiotics is typical in China because hospitals attempt to boost revenue.

"We need to raise the alert that we are at a critical point where antibiotic resistance is reaching unprecedented levels and new antibiotics are not going to arrive quickly enough," Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO's regional director for Europe, said, Today Online reports.

There are around 440,000 new cases of multi-drug resistant TB throughout the world each year, leading to at least 150,000 deaths.