‘Lancet article has drawn attention to the issue of antimicrobial resistance'

Even as the controversy over the origin of the new antibiotic-resistant bacteria named after India — New Delhi Metallo-beta lactamase-1 (NDM-1) — continues, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has virtually endorsed the study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal saying that the article had drawn attention to the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), and, in particular, raised the awareness of infections caused by multi-drug resistant bacteria.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the WHO said that while multi-drug resistant bacteria are not new and will continue to appear, this development requires monitoring and further study to understand the extent and modes of transmission, and to define the most effective measures for control.

AMR will be the theme of the WHO's World Health Day 2011.

The organisation has advised that countries should be prepared to implement hospital infection control measures to limit the spread of multi-drug-resistant strains and to reinforce national policy on prudent use of antibiotics, reducing the generation of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

AMR — the ability of micro-organisms to find ways to evade the action of the drugs used to cure the infections they cause — is increasingly recognised as a global public health issue which could hamper the control of many infectious diseases.

Some bacteria have developed mechanisms which render them resistant to many of the antibiotics normally used for their treatment (multi-drug-resistant bacteria), and thus pose particular difficulties as there may be few or no alternative options for therapy. They constitute a growing and global public health problem.

Those called upon by the organisation to be alert to the problem of AMR and take appropriate action include consumers, prescribers and dispensers, veterinarians, managers of hospitals and diagnostic laboratories, patients and visitors to healthcare facilities, as well as national governments, the pharmaceutical industry, professional societies, and international agencies.

The WHO has strongly recommended that governments focus control and prevention efforts in some main areas of surveillance for AMR — rational antibiotic use, including education of healthcare workers and the public in the appropriate use of antibiotics; introducing or enforcing legislation related to stopping the selling of antibiotics without prescription; and strict adherence to infection prevention and control measures, including the use of hand-washing measures, particularly in healthcare facilities.

Successful control of multi-drug-resistant micro-organisms has been documented in many countries, and the existing and well-known infection prevention and control measures can effectively reduce transmission of multi-drug-resistant organisms if rigorously and systematically implemented.

The WHO will continue to support countries to develop relevant policies and to coordinate international efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance.