Urgent need to address "indiscriminate" use of antibiotics

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Antibiotics. WHO/S. Volkov

The "rampant" use of antibiotics and other drugs could reverse gains made in controlling communicable diseases, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.

WHO fears common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades may once again kill millions.

It is urging countries in South-East Asia to urgently address this potential public health threat.

Dianne Penn reports.

Dr Poonam Khetrepal Singh, WHO representative for South-East Asia, sounded the alarm at a regional meeting of health ministers in Timor-Leste on Tuesday.

He said "indiscriminate" use of antibiotics and other drugs—by prescribers and patients, and even by the farming and fishing industries—is making people resistant to medicines.

As a result, common infections such as diarrhoea, tuberculosis, malaria and gonorrhoea are already becoming harder to treat.

WHO estimates as many as 10 million people worldwide could die by 2050 if the problem goes unchecked.

Furthermore, there are few new antibiotics to replace those that are resistant or ineffective.

Dr Singh called for national action plans to combat the problem.

This would include monitoring the extent of antibiotic resistance as well as regulating and promoting the "appropriate use" of medicines.

Dianne Penn, United Nations.

Duration: 57″

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