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World Health Day 2011 Highlights Problem Of Antimicrobial Resistance

On the eve of World Health Day 2011, Inter Press Service examines the growing global challenge of antibimicrobial resistance.

According to IPS, research and development for antimicrobials has slowed in recent years, despite an increasingly urgent need to develop new drugs to fight drug-resistant forms of diseases. For example, WHO reports that nearly half a million cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) occur each year, leading to more than 150,000 deaths annually, and extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) has been recorded in 64 countries. In addition, drug-resistant strains of HIV, which affect more than six percent of patients worldwide, are making treatment of the disease more difficult and costly (D’Almeida, 4/5).

And according to a WHO factsheet (.pdf), drug-resistant strains of malaria, Staphylococcus aureus, Shigella, and gonorrhea are becoming more widespread and causing more deaths because of an inability to adequately treat and cure them. The factsheet lists several factors contributing to the emergence and spread of drug resistant microorganisms, including inappropriate and irrational use of microbials, poor infection prevention and control practices, and lack of access to adequate diagnostics, medicines and vaccines (undated).

“Drug resistance imposes huge costs on health systems and is taking a growing – and unnecessary – toll in lives, threatening to roll back much of the progress we have made towards the health-related Millennium Development Goals,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in remarks prepared for World Health Day, according to Press TV. “Antimicrobial resistance is a natural phenomenon, but it is exacerbated by the widespread use, overuse and misuse of medicines, and the spread of resistant infections in healthcare and agriculture. Trade, travel and migration are increasing the spread of these organisms across communities and borders,” he said (4/6).

To mark World Health Day 2011 on Thursday, the WHO “will introduce a six-point policy package to combat the spread of antimicrobial resistance,” according to the WHO website (undated).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.