WHO director-general says antimicrobial resistance getting worse

World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan said on Thursday that antimicrobial resistance is getting worse and a strategic plan is needed to reverse the alarming trends.

Chan made the remarks on Thursday in Geneva before the WHO's strategic and technical advisory group on global strategy for tackling antimicrobial resistance. Chan said the WHO Member States are very concerned about the ominous trends of antimicrobial resistance that point toward a post-antibiotic era where common infections can kill humans once again. She also said that the problem is getting worse.

"For example, we are rapidly running out of treatment options for gonorrhea, returning this disease to the status of a major public health problem," Chan said. "Worldwide, an estimated 630,000 people are ill with multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. Even more alarming is the fact that many of these infections are resistant to multiple drugs right at the start. This tells us that highly-resistant strains are passing directly from person to person."

Chan addressed the issues of hospital-acquired infections, the massive use of antimicrobials in animal husbandry, the lack of a national drug policy in many developing countries and the overprescription of antimicrobials.

She said the group must develop a strategic plan to counteract the growing issue.

"We need a strong and far-reaching strategic plan, with clear roles for WHO and the many others who can help reverse these alarming trends," Chan said. "If we lose our most effective antimicrobials, we lose modern medicine as we know it."