Misuse of Antibiotics Undermining Efficacy: WHO

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The World Health Organization (WHO) cautioned on Thursday that the misuse of antibiotics is diminishing their effectiveness, leading to the emergence of resistant bacteria. This situation could potentially result in approximately 10 million deaths globally by 2050.

As part of a study conducted by WHO’s European chapter, findings revealed that antibiotics were prescribed for conditions such as the common cold (24% of cases), flu-like symptoms (16%), a sore throat (21%), and a cough (18%). This survey spanned 14 countries, predominantly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

While acknowledging antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as a natural occurrence, the WHO emphasized that the development and spread of superbugs are accelerating due to the inappropriate use of antimicrobials. This misuse is making infections increasingly challenging to treat effectively, according to a statement.

The European region of WHO consists of 53 countries, including several in Central Asia. Robb Butler, director of WHO Europe’s Division of Communicable Diseases, highlighted that all countries in the region have regulations in place to safeguard antibiotics from misuse. Enforcing these regulations could effectively address most instances of antibiotic misuse.

Warning of the grave consequences without immediate intervention, the WHO stressed that antimicrobial resistance, encompassing antibiotics, might contribute to up to 10 million deaths annually by 2050.

The report identified incorrect prescription as a significant concern, revealing that a third of approximately 8,200 people surveyed across the 14 countries had taken antibiotics without a medical prescription. In certain nations, over 40% of antibiotics were used without professional medical advice.

In contrast, a similar survey conducted in the European Union in 2022 indicated that only eight percent of respondents had taken antibiotics without a prescription.

Furthermore, the WHO highlighted substantial gaps in people’s knowledge about antibiotics, potentially leading them to use antibiotics inappropriately without realizing it.

Robb Butler emphasized the urgent need for education and awareness-raising efforts based on this research.

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