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Misuse of top antibiotics gives rise to superbugs: WHO report

HIGHLIGHTS

  • WHO has published a list of antibiotic-resistant ‘priority pathogens’- a catalogue of 12 families of bacteria
  • Most of these 12 superbugs have presence in India
  • Rampant use of antibiotics said to be responsible for bacteria becoming resistant

 

 

NEW DELHI: The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published its first ever list of antibiotic-resistant ‘priority pathogens’ — a catalogue of 12 families of bacteriathat pose the greatest threat to human health.

This is bad news for India as most of these 12 superbugs+ have presence in the country. The list was drawn up to promote research and development of new antibiotics, the global health agency said, adding that the move was part of efforts to address the problem of growing global resistance to antimicrobial medicines.

“Antibiotic resistance is growing and we are fast running out of treatment options. If we leave it to market forces alone, the new antibiotics we urgently need are not going to be developed in time,” said Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO’s assistant director-general for health systems and innovation.
TOI had reported the case of an elderly American woman who died in the US recently after having contracted an infection while being treated for a thigh bone fracture in India two years ago. Tests showed no drug or combination of drugs available in the US would have cured the infection. Many experts in Delhi’s top hosptals, including AIIMS, say such instances are becoming common due to antibiotic resistance.
CDC Atlanta, which houses one of world’s most advanced laboratories, conducted tests on the woman’s wound specimen later and confirmed the presence of New Delhi Metallo-Beta-Lactamase (NDM) — a superbug that makes bacteria resistant to antibiotics. The misuse of high-end antibiotics for treatment of common health conditions gives rise to these bacteria. AIIMS trauma centre doctors said at least eight patients had been identified with colistin-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae at their hospital recently.

“There are four common ways in which superbugs attack — ventilator-associated pneumonia, surgical site infection, central line associated blood stream infection and catheter-associated urinary tract infection. If hospitals ensure proper care to avoid such infections, many lives can be saved,” said Dr Purva Mathur, a senior microbiologist at the hospital.

The WHO list of drug-resistant bacteria is divided into three categories. The most critical group includes multidrug-resistant bacteria that pose a particular threat in hospitals, nursing homes and among patients whose care requires devices such as ventilators and blood catheters. These include Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and various Enterobacteriaceae (including Klebsiella, E coli, Serratia and Proteus). They can cause severe and often deadly infections such as bloodstream infections and pneumonia. These bacteria have become resistant to a large number of antibiotics, including carbapenems and third-generation cephalosporins – the best available antibiotics for treating multidrug-resistant bacteria.

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