Antimicrobial resistance has long been a concern for U.S. policy makers and public health organizations, including CDC, which displays this graphic on its antimicrobial resistance website.

Antimicrobial Resistance Chosen as World Health Day 2011 Theme

The World Health Organization announced Nov. 6 that it will launch a worldwide campaign on that day -- April 7, 2011 -- to safeguard medicines for future generations.

The global problem of antimicrobial resistance has been chosen as the theme for World Health Day 2011, the World Health Organization announced Nov. 6. WHO said it will launch a worldwide campaign on that day -- April 7, 2011 -- to safeguard medicines for future generations. The campaign will focus partly on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria pandemics; WHO said it will call on governments around the world to implement policies to prevent the emergence of highly resistant "superbugs."

Antimicrobial resistance has long been a concern for U.S. policy makers and public health organizations, including CDC. This concern made the American public aware of MRSA -- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus -- bacteria, for example.

WHO posted an interview on its website with John Conly, a professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases and Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance at the University of Calgary in Canada. He is a former board chairman of the Canadian Committee on Antibiotic Resistance. While Conly describes several 2010 developments that indicate world governments are acting to address the problem, he also says new multi-resistant NDM1-containing strains are a serious threat. "We are essentially back to an era with no antibiotics," Conly says. "We have seen such strains spread internationally. By early September this year, the United States of America had reported cases in three states and Canada, in three provinces. Australia, Belgium, Japan, Sweden, and Viet Nam have all reported cases, so it's outside of India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, where it was initially described. Engaging the [international health regulations] could help to establish common standards for surveillance and control of NDM1-containing strains."

He says antimicrobial resistance "occurs everywhere but is particularly a concern in countries where prescription of antimicrobials is unregulated and where you can buy antibiotics over the counter. This is the case in many countries, including those with large populations such as China and India, where antibiotic sales appear to have increased, consistent with the growth of a more affluent middle class, as well as many countries in Africa and Central and South America. But the usage in humans pales in comparison with the use of antibiotics in the agri-food industry –- in cattle, poultry and hog farming, fish farming, honeybee hives –- where these agents are used as growth promoters. Some estimates suggest that antibiotic use in animals and fish is at least 1,000-fold greater in terms of absolute tonnage compared with use in humans."

Conly says governments and patient organizations need to work together. WHO's leadership and publicity from World Health Day 2011 "can play a pivotal role in emphasizing these important messages to the general public," he adds.

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