The World Health Organization (WHO) warned of the dangerous increase in antibiotic consumption in some countries, but also of low use in other regions, which can lead to the emergence of deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria, commonly dubbed superbugs.
Antibiotics consumption differ from one region to another
The WHO report, based on data collected in 2015 across 65 countries and territories around the world, shows a significant difference in consumption, ranging from 4 defined daily doses (DDD) per 1,000 inhabitants per day in Burundi to more than 64 in Mongolia.
“These differences indicate that some countries are likely to consume too many antibiotics while others may not have sufficient access to these drugs,” WHO said in a statement in the report.
Discovered in the 1920s, antibiotics saved tens of millions of lives by effectively fighting those diseases triggered by bacteria, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and meningitis, among others. Over the years, however, due to the reckless use of antibiotics, some bacteria modified themselves to resist these drugs, turning into what we now call as antibiotic-resistant bacteria or superbugs.
The recent WHO study excluded the United States, China, and India
WHO has warned on numerous occasions that the number of effective antibiotics in the world is declining, while the superbugs number is increasing.
Bacteria can become resistant when patients use antibiotics they don’t need or when they don’t conclude their treatments. That makes it easier for the bacteria to survive and develop immunity, according to the WHO.
However, WHO also acknowledges that its report is incomplete because it only includes four countries in Africa, three in the Middle East, and six in the Asia-Pacific region. In addition to that, the significant absentees of this study are the United States, China, and India, considered some of the biggest antibiotics consumers.
Since 2016, WHO has helped 57 low- and middle-income countries collect data to create a standardized system for tracking antibiotic use.