A WHO report has found that global awareness of antibiotic resistance is poor.
The report, Worldwide country situation analysis: Response to antimicrobial resistance, surveyed 133 countries across the globe, to assess their capability to combat antimicrobial resistance in medicines used to treat conditions such as bloodstream infections, pneumonia, tuberculosis, malaria and HIV.
It found that only 34 of the countries surveyed, less than 25%, had comprehensive plans to combat antimicrobial resistance. Only 40% of the European region had measures to limit the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Responding to the report, Dr Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's assistant director-general for health security, said: 'This is the single greatest challenge in infectious diseases today, All types of microbes – including many viruses and parasites – are becoming resistant to medicines.'
The report also highlighted a lack of awareness among the public about the rise of antibiotic resistance. It noted that, despite awareness campaigns being common, less than 50% of the European public were aware that antibiotics cannot treat viruses. It also noted than an over-reliance on prescribing medicines in all countries had increased the rate at which bacteria become resistant to antibiotics.
Dr Fukada added: 'Of particularly urgent concern is the development of bacteria that are progressively less treatable by available antibiotics. This is happening in all parts of the world, so all countries must do their part to tackle this global threat. Scientists, medical practitioners and other authorities including WHO have been sounding the warning of the potentially catastrophic impact of ignoring antibiotic resistance.'