UN unveils plan to combat rise of superbugs
DUBAI // The United Nations has presented a global strategy to fight the rise of so-called superbugs, microbes that have become immune to antibiotics.
Health professionals in the UAE have raised concerns about the problem, which they said was caused by easy access to and overprescription of antibiotics.
World leaders at the UN general assembly in New York have agreed to develop national action plans to boost the efficacy of antibiotics by strengthening healthcare regulations and improving reporting systems on drug use.
Mohamed Bali, executive director of Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders) in the UAE, said superbugs had been badly affecting MSF’s work.
“MSF is witnessing the emergence of antibiotic resistance in our projects, including at child nutritional centres in Niger and in adult trauma patients in Syria and Jordan,” he said.
“In our surgical programmes in Jordan, more than half of orthopaedic and maxillofacial surgery patients arrive with a multi-drug-resistant infection. There is an urgent need for new antibiotics to counter resistant infections.”
The MSF said only six of the 50 largest pharmaceutical companies had ongoing programmes to develop antibiotics.
The UN pledge is non-binding and does not demand countries to comply with meeting specific targets, but it acknowledges that action is needed to tackle the global problem that could render medicine useless.
Dr Suleiman Al Obeid, a senior Saudi microbiologist, believed that a process-driven approach could curb the unnecessary use of antibiotics.
“Doctors in the UAE have called for restricted regulations on over-the-counter antibiotic sales and raising consumer awareness to reduce patient demand for antibiotics,” he said.
“But antibiotic resistance is not attributed to this alone. Even before penicillin was introduced, resistant strains of bacteria had been detected.
“Poor hand hygiene compliance has contributed to the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
A British review of antimicrobial resistance estimates that 700,000 people a year die from drug-resistant infections.
In the United States, about 2 million people fall ill from drug-resistant bacteria every year and at least 23,000 die from those infections.
Hygiene routines remained largely absent in many hospitals and clinics worldwide, contributing to infections and the need for antibiotics, said Dr Al Obeid.
“Infection-control interventions need to be reassessed and improved in an era with rapid transmission of multidrug-resistant bacteria and mobile antibiotic resistance genes,” he said. “For the system to work, all healthcare professionals need to ensure they keep accurate, timely and clear medical records.”
Updated: September 26, 2016 04:00 AM