GENEVA, June 18 (Xinhua) -- The World Health Organization (WHO) urged on Tuesday the world's governments to step up action to reduce the spread of antimicrobial resistance and make antibiotic use safer and more effective.
In its newly launched global campaign called "AdoptAWaRe, Handle antibiotics with care", the WHO classifies antibiotics into three groups, Access, Watch and Reserve, and specifies which antibiotics to use for the most common and serious infections, which ones should be available at all times in the healthcare system, and those that must be used sparingly or preserved and used only as a last resort.
The campaign aims to increase the proportion of global consumption of antibiotics in the Access group to at least 60 percent, and to reduce use of the antibiotics most at risk of resistance from the Watch and Reserve groups.
Using Access antibiotics lowers the risk of resistance because they are "narrow-spectrum" antibiotics which target a specific microorganism rather than several, and are also less costly because they are available in generic formulations, the WHO said.
"Tackling antimicrobial resistance requires a careful balance between access and preservation," said Dr. Hanan Balkhy, WHO assistant-director general for antimicrobial resistance, who urged governments to adopt the WHO-developed AWaRe tool for guiding their policy to ensure patients keep being treated, "while also limiting use of the antibiotics most at risk of resistance."
Antimicrobial resistance is a global health and development threat that continues to escalate globally, the WHO warns, as it is estimated that more than 50 percent of antibiotics in many countries are used inappropriately, such as for treatment of viruses when they only treat bacterial infections or use of the broader spectrum antibiotic, thus contributing to the spread of antimicrobial resistance.
One of the most pressing concerns is the spread of resistant gram-negative bacteria, including Acinetobacter, Escherichia coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae. These bacteria, which are commonly seen in hospitalized patients, cause infections like pneumonia, bloodstream infections, wound or surgical site infections and meningitis.
When antibiotics stop working effectively, more expensive treatments and hospital admissions are needed, taking a heavy toll on already stretched health budgets. In the absence of new significant investments into the development of new antibiotics, improving the use of antibiotics is one of the key actions needed to curb further emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance, the WHO said.