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Antibiotic resistance a growing threat, WHO reports
Improper drug use to blame
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sore throats and ear infections, ailments once easily treatable, may soon become immune to antibiotics, as malaria and tuberculosis have become in some countries, officials of the World Health Organization said Monday.
WHO's annual report on infectious diseases, "Overcoming Antimicrobial Resistance," paints a comprehensive picture of the dwindling effect penicillin and other antibiotics have in fighting once simple bacterial infections.
People throughout the world "may only have a decade or two to make use of many of the medicines presently available to stop infectious diseases," said Dr. David Heymann, executive director of WHO's program on communicable diseases.
Better strategies for drug treatment needed
WHO officials said poorly planned or haphazard use of medicines has caused drugs to lose effectiveness almost as quickly as scientists have been able to discover them.
Antimicrobial resistance is a naturally occurring biological phenomenon -- bugs develop resistance to drugs that don't kill them -- but the process is amplified by misuse and neglect of antimicrobial drugs. Antimicrobial resistance can reduce the power of once life-saving medicines to that of a sugar pill.
"We currently have effective medicines to cure almost every major infectious disease," said Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO's director-general. "But we risk losing these valuable drugs and our opportunity to eventually control many infectious diseases because of increasing antimicrobial resistance."
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