For more than 70 years, antibiotics have saved countless lives. Unfortunately, the overuse and misuse of antibiotic therapy and mismanagement in hygiene practices have resulted in antibiotic resistance. More and more, infection-causing bacteria have built defences against antibiotics that used to kill them. These resistant bacteria are also called “superbugs”.
Antibiotic treatment is losing its capacity to treat infections. We now have fewer antibiotics to cure common infections and we are seeing serious infections, such as gonorrhoea, tuberculosis and pneumonia, that can’t be reversed.
Resistant organisms—the superbugs—have no borders. They are transmitted in homes, communities, hospitals, food chains and water suppplies. They are a major source of infections acquired in hospitals. In the agricultural industry, the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals to help herds grow faster also contributes to the spread of resistant bacteria to humans through the foods we eat.
At the World Health Organization (WHO), health experts are tracking antibiotic resistance cases all over the world. At the Sixty-Eight World Health Assembly in May 2015, the World Health Assembly endorsed a global initiative to reduce antimicrobial resistance, including antibiotic resistance, the most critical drug resistance trend that affects everyone.
To decrease antibiotic resistance, we need to systematically integrate infection control practices in our lives and adhere to preventive measures. For an overview on the causes of antibiotic resistance and what you can do to prevent it, here are two helpful infographics created by the WHO.