Experts warn of growing antibiotic resistant bacteria

A new paper written by a group of scientific experts in academia and the biopharmaceutical industry recently called for urgent steps to be taken to combat the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

The paper, which appears in the journal Nature Reviews Microbiology, lists steps that need to be taken on a worldwide scale in order to alleviate the potential dangers of a world where antibiotics no longer function as intended, according to

The group, which recently held a meeting in Cold Harbor, New York, noted that in 2007, Europe had approximately 400,000 antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections and 20,000 related deaths.

In the United States alone, it is believed that antibiotic-resistant infections add $20 billion every year to healthcare costs, $35 billion in costs to society as a whole and eight million more visits to hospitals.

The resistance problem is exacerbated, according to the authors, because the global economy has lead to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, reports.

The group recommends that research priorities be immediately established in order to control the spread of resistance. Further knowledge about the bacteria needs to be gained then disseminated throughout the world.

"Increasing lines of evidence identify the principal reservoirs of resistance genes to be bacteria that live in and on humans and animals, as well as those found in the environment (in soil, water and so on)," the scientists said, reports. "However, there is insufficient information about the conditions and factors that lead to the mobilization, selection and movement of these bacteria into and between animal and human populations."

The report calls for an increase in international funding that would allow scientists to track antibiotic resistance worldwide, along the lines of how the World Health Organization tracks major outbreaks.

"Local governments must be encouraged and supported to invest in better sanitation infrastructure and tighter prescription regulations to control the rapid evolution of resistance," the scientists said, according to "This is a worldwide, multinational problem and must be treated as such.

"The cost of the undertaking that we propose will be infinitesimally small in comparison to the economic and human cost of doing nothing."