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Antibiotic-resistant bacteria

By: Floro Mercene

The World Health Organization (WHO) published a list of the 12 bacteria which pose the greatest threat to human health because they are resistant to antibiotics. About 700,000 people around the world die annually due to drug-resistant infections. By 2050, if it is left without any actions, 10 million people will be killed, which could become a top cause of death, a bigger threat than cancer.

Drug resistance is driven by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in medicine and agriculture, which encourages bacteria to evolve to survive and develop new ways of beating the medicine. The WHO said that 12 bacteria have built-in abilities to find new ways to resist treatment and can pass along genetic material that allows other bacteria to become drug-resistant as well. Without effective drugs, key medical procedures – including organ transplantation, caesarean sections, joint replacements and chemotherapy – could become too dangerous to perform.

The list would spur governments to put in place policies to incentivize the developments of new drugs. The most critical group includes multi-drug resistant bacteria that pose a particular threat in hospitals and nursing homes.

The bacteria on this list can cause severe and often deadly infections such as bloodstream infections and pneumonia.

Other increasingly drug-resistant bacteria, which are deemed high and medium priority, cause more common diseases such as gonorrhea and food poisoning caused by salmonella. Common infections, such as pneumonia, gonorrhea and postoperative infections are becoming harder to treat as result of antimicrobial resistance, experts say.

At the 68th World Health Assembly in May 2015, the World Health Assembly endorsed a global action plan to address antibiotic resistance urging member states to commit to national versions of the program by 2017 to reduce antibiotic use by 2020.