Antibiotic resistance is reaching such dangerous proportions that the entire global health system is at risk of collapse, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on November 16. The agency released a report highlighting many of the myths about antibiotics that people believe worldwide, and how these contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistance.
“The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis,” said WHO head, Margaret Chan. “More and more governments recognize (it is) one of the greatest threats to health today.”
“Super bugs haunt hospitals and intensive care units all around the world,” Chan said, and their increasing prevalence threatens to push the world into “a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections will once again kill.”
Antibiotic resistance naturally emerges as a result of natural selection, similar to pesticide resistance in insects or plants. In the course of their evolution, bacteria have developed a wide array of defenses against the chemicals that other organisms produce in order to kill them – the chemicals that antibiotics are derived from or based on. Different bacteria naturally vary in their resistance to different chemicals. But when a person is treated with antibiotics, all the bacteria most susceptible to that drug die, leaving only the more resistant organisms to reproduce and pass their resistance on to the next generation.
Although this process is inevitable, it can be worsened and sped up by poor antibiotic practices – and this is exactly what is happening, the WHO warns. The agency recently surveyed people in 12 countries on their ideas about antibiotic use and resistance. The results revealed widespread and dangerous misconceptions, the agency said.