Addressing Resistance to Antibiotics

Antibiotics_Iqbal Osman_Flickr CCjpgThere is growing international concern about the threat to public health of the emergence and spread of bacteria resistant to existing antibiotics.

An effective response must invest in both the development of new drugs and measures to slow the emergence of resistance. A new Working Paper from the STEPS Centre and Future Health Systems, Addressing Resistance to Antibiotics in Pluralistic Health Systems, addresses the former.

The paper focuses on  low and middle-income countries with pluralistic health systems, where people obtain much of their antibiotics in unorganised markets.

“If current trends continue, we could end up reliving conditions before the discovery of antibiotics, when infectious diseases were major killers,” warned Dr. Gerry Bloom one of the authors of the new paper and the convenor of the STEPS Centre’s health research, in a Project Syndicate article.

There is evidence that unroganised markets have enabled people to treat many infections and reduce mortality. However, they also encourage overuse of antibiotics and behaviour likely to encourage the emergence of resistance.

The new paper reviews a number of strategies for improving the use of antibiotics. It concludes that effective strategies need measures to ensure easy access to antibiotics, as well as those aimed at influencing providers and users of these drugs to use them appropriately.

“Implementing a system-wide change in the use of antibiotics will require the creation of national and global coalitions. One core aim must be to establish basic standards of conduct for health workers and drug companies that reflect the needs of patients and communities. Governments will need to build their capacity to play an effective role in this process, and companies that develop, produce, and distribute drugs and diagnostic technologies will have to contribute actively to the search for collaborative solutions. Only if we manage antiobiotics in a fair and sustainable way will we be able to benefit from them at all,” said Dr Bloom.

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