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Drug resistance has gone global, WHO says

World Health Organization reports that antibiotics are failing worldwide against infections

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5:00pm, April 30, 2014

WORSE THAN EVER  Staphylococcus aureus microbes resistant to the drug methicillin,shown being attacked by an immune cell (green) in this micrograph, are among many bacteria becoming more prevalent, WHO reports.

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Microbes resistant to frontline antibiotics are now widespread around the world, posing a risk that infections routinely vanquished by drugs in the past won’t be susceptible to them in the future. A World Health Organization report issued April 30 finds high resistance rates in diverse quarters against common microbes causing tuberculosis, pneumonia, diarrhea and infections of the blood, wounds and the urinary tract.

In addition to well-known staph, strep and E. coli bacteria, WHO cites increasing drug resistance in bacteria causing salmonella and gonorrhea as well as in nonbacterial agents that cause HIV and malaria.

Without concerted disease surveillance and collaboration to slow the spread of resistant microbes, the world is headed for a “post-antibiotic era,” warns Keiji Fukuda, WHO assistant director-general for health security.

WHO divides the globe into six regions. It found that five of the six had reported high rates of resistance in hospital-related cases of E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Drug-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae showed up in all six regions.

Antibiotic groups losing their punch include the penicillins, fluoroquinolones, cephalosporins and carbapenems. Resistance to drugs results in higher death rates from disease, longer hospital stays for those who survive and higher medical costs.

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