WHO report on global antibiotic resistance highlights growing threats in the face of surveillance gaps

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Surveillance data from 22 countries show some of the world’s most common and potentially deadly infections gaining  ground globally against the antibiotics used to treat them, while monitoring, coordination and communication gaps hamper efforts to both assess and respond to the scope of the threat, a report released by the World Health Organization Monday shows.

The bacteria most resistant to drugs included ones causing urinary tract, respiratory, blood stream, gastroenterological, and post-operative wound infections most commonly acquired in hospitals, according to the report. The report also notes that the bacterium that causes the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea is “evolving into a superbug” resistant to several generations of treatments, and that the impacts of the infections are likely to increase and worsen globally. In addition, according to the report, the data show multidrug-resistant strains of salmonella are bringing increased risks of invasive infection, hospitalization and death from food-borne illnesses.

The report is the first from the WHO’s Global Antimicrobial Surveillance System — or GLASS —  launched in 2015 to support, build and benefit from efforts to track resistance medicines used to treat community and hospital infections currently in 52 countries across the economic spectrum. The system does not gather data on resistance to treatments for HIV, tuberculosis or malaria, which are tracked separately by WHO. Just 22 of the 40 countries supplying information for the report provided any measurement of antibiotic resistance, with the quality and completeness of the data varying widely. The data — and gaps in data — highlight needs to further build capacities that can monitor infections that easily cross borders, the report notes.

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