A good source of current information on microbial resistance to antibiotics is the new World Health Organization (WHO) report entitled “Antimicrobial Resistance: Global Report on Surveillance 2014”. You can download a 7-page summary and/or the entire 257-page report.

The report paints a fairly gloomy picture of where we stand right now with respect to resistance to antibiotics. High rates of resistance to antibiotics are now found in common disease-causing bacteria in all regions of the world. To make matters worse, there are gaps in information gathering and surveillance that make it difficult to know the full extent of the problem. According to the summary, “The problem is so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine.” The report warns that in this century we may return to an era similar to before antibiotics, when even simple infections and minor injuries routinely killed people.

The report concludes that improved surveillance is needed, and that governments will have to take action if we expect the situation to get any better. No surprise there. WHO is responsible for overseeing worldwide disease surveillance for the United Nations, but neither it nor the United Nations is empowered to take the kinds of specific actions that governments can take, such as passing laws to prevent antibiotic over-use or spending more money on antibiotic research. It’ll be interesting to see if anything comes of this report.

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