April 7 is the WHO's World Health Day. Each year a different topic is chosen and this year it is antimicrobial resistance.
It's not as splashy and easy to understand as AIDS, TB or malnutrition but it is creating the next generation of diseases that we are quickly becoming familiar with: the so-called 'superbugs' such as C.difficile, MRSA and new, more virulent strains of old diseases such as a drug-resistant TB and malaria. (It's not just a human problem, these diseases are showing up in mass farmed animals, a drug resistant strain of salmonella was behind a recent recall of U.S. turkey products).
These new infections are of our own making, as both users and prescribes. For decades antibiotics were used as almost a placebo to combat everything from colds to ear aches despite the fact that antibiotics only work against bacteria, not viruses. We clamored for them and doctors were happy to prescribe them.
The international health community is being called on to strengthen the two pronged approach that they have began to combat the problem:
1. To end the misuse of antibiotics to save more drug-resistant infectious diseases from taking hold;
2. To increase efforts (and expenditures) on the treatment and eradication of the new diseases to save them from becoming endemic in our society.
It is unfortunate that by misusing one of our greatest inventions we have run the risk of starting all over again combatting new, untreatable versions of diseases we thought we had eradicated decades ago.
Antibiotic Resistance WHO
Antibiotic Awareness Day (Canada)
Antibiotics: How we fight bacteria Virtual Museum of Bacteria
WHO urges for rational use of antibiotics to fight against infectious diseases Pharmabiz
Antibiotic Resistance: The endless struggle The Lancet
The spread of superbugs The Economist
Can economics solve antibiotic resistance? Christian Science Monitor
The Ten-Year Timeline for Antibiotics Burnout IPS