Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are now found worldwide, a situation that could have serious public health consequences, the World Health Organization warns in a new report.
Without urgent action to counter the threat, "the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill," Dr. Keiji Fukuda, one of the agency's assistant director-generals, said in a news release, the Associated Press reported.
The WHO's first global survey of antibiotic resistance revealed high rates of drug-resistant E. coli bacteria, which can cause numerous problems, including meningitis and skin, blood and kidney infections. In some countries, treatment for E. coli is ineffective in more than half of patients.
No new antibiotics have been introduced for more than 30 years and there is an urgent need to develop new drugs to fight bacteria, experts say. Last year, Britain's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Sally Davies said antibiotic resistance is a "ticking time bomb" that posed as great a threat as terrorism.
"We see horrendous rates of antibiotic resistance wherever we look...including children admitted to nutritional centers in Niger and people in our surgical and trauma units in Syria," Dr. Jennifer Cohn, a medical director at Doctors Without Borders, in a news release, the AP reported.
Nations must improve their monitoring of antibiotic resistance. "Otherwise, our actions are just a shot in the dark," Cohn said.
People should use antibiotics only when prescribed by a doctor, should complete the full prescription, and must never share them with others or use leftover prescriptions, the WHO said.