World Health Organization Issues Warning About Antibiotic Overuse

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning June 12, 2000 that the present use of antibiotics is creating a dangerous situation by increasing drug resistant infections. According to the report, which was picked up by the Associated Press and most other news agencies, "drug-resistant infections in rich and developing nations alike are threatening to make once-treatable diseases incurable."

Dr. David Heymann, WHO infectious diseases chief , stated in the article, "We are losing windows of opportunity. It is something we have to really address immediately or we are going to start losing our antibiotics." Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who helped the WHO unveil the report also added, "This is a major problem for us, and it is not going to go away."

The problem is that we are using antibiotics so regularly that the bacteria we are fighting are now evolving to be resistant and stronger. At the same time when we continually use antibiotics instead of our own natural resistance we are becoming weaker, as a species, in our ability to fight these bacteria.

The World Health Organization also pointed out that how we raise animals is also a large part of the problem. The WHO noted that half the antibiotics used worldwide are used on the farm, mostly to help healthy animals grow bigger. That encourages drug-resistant bacteria that cause food poisoning. According to WHO up to 5,000 Americans may have suffered longer-lasting food poisoning in 1998 from drug-resistant germs in chicken.

The effects are already being felt. The US Centers for Disease Control states that as many as 88,000 Americans die each year of infections they catch in the hospital, and many are resistant to at least one antibiotic, complicating treatment attempts.

The WHO makes two basic recommendations. The first is wiser use of antibiotic and antimicrobial drugs. The second is that human antibiotics not be used to enhance the growth of animals meant for human consumption.