The World Health Organization last month released a detailed report warning about antimicrobial resistance as a global trend. Even the press release is scary.
The modern antibiotic era began in the 1930s with the development of the first sulfa drugs, which inhibited bacterial growth, and blossomed when penicillin, which killed bacteria, began to be purified and widely used in the years after World War II. New antibiotics developed; death rates from bacterial infections fell dramatically. Life expectancy increased thanks to these wonder drugs, to vaccines, and to improvements in sanitation. In 1900, the greatest killers of Americans were infectious diseases: pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diarhea and enteritis. Today, as most people know, heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death.
But now we are faced with the threat that infectious disease deaths will climb as microorganisms evolve to resist antimicrobial drugs. Already, tuberculosis, a bacterial disease that is the second-biggest killer on the planet, has evolved resistance to many antibiotic drugs. Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, (MDR-TB) is becoming widespread. Preventing the therapeutic arsenal used against TB and other deadly infections from being neutralized requires a global effort. This means, among other things: surveillance; the reduced use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals; the development of new therapeutic tools; and efforts by health-care providers and institutions to reduce unnecessary use of these medications.
There have already been antibiotic-resistant outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. And Delaware recently reported what is believed to be the case in the United States of NDM-producing carbapenem-resistant (CR) Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a multidrug-resistant bacterial organism that was first seen in Serbia. This is an established problem that must be addressed. We must use our antimicrobial drugs with care.