According to the report, a quarter of countries that responded to a WHO survey had national plans to preserve antimicrobial medicines like antibiotics, but many more countries must step up their efforts.
The report dubbed: “Worldwide country situation analysis: Response to antimicrobial resistance,” was made available to the Ghana News Agency on Wednesday by Tarik Jašarević, WHO Communications Officer.
The report, which outlines the survey findings, revealed that while much activity is underway and many governments are committed to address the problem, there are major gaps in actions needed across all six WHO regions to prevent the misuse of antibiotics and reduce spread of antimicrobial resistance.
“This is the single greatest challenge in infectious diseases today,” Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security, said in the report.
“All types of microbes including many viruses and parasites are becoming resistant to medicines. Of particularly urgent concern is the development of bacteria that are progressively less treatable by available antibiotics. This is happening in all parts of the world, so all countries must do their part to tackle this global threat.”
Issued a year after WHO’s first report on the extent of antimicrobial resistance globally, warned of a post-antibiotic era.
The survey, which was completed by 133 countries in 2013 and 2014, is the first to capture governments’ own assessments of their response to resistance to antimicrobial medicines used to treat conditions such as bloodstream infections, pneumonia, tuberculosis (TB), malaria and HIV.
The report summarises current practices and structures aimed to address the issue, and shows there are significant areas for improvement.
“While there is a lot to be encouraged, much more work needs to be done to combat one of the most serious global health threats of our time,” Dr Fukuda said.
“Scientists, medical practitioners and other authorities including WHO have been sounding the warning of the potentially catastrophic impact of ignoring antibiotic resistance. Today, we welcome what has been achieved so far, but much more needs to be done to avoid losing the ability to practise medicine and treat both common and serious illnesses.”
Key findings of the report include: Few countries (34 out of 133 participating in the survey) had a comprehensive national plan to fight resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines.
According to the report, monitoring is key for controlling antibiotic resistance, but it is infrequent; adding that in many countries, poor laboratory capacity, infrastructure and data management are preventing effective surveillance, which could reveal patterns of resistance and identify trends and outbreaks.
It also mentioned sales of antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines without prescription remained widespread, with many countries lacking standard treatment guidelines, increasing the potential for overuse of antimicrobial medicines by the public and medical professionals.
Another key finding is public awareness of the issue is low in all regions, with many people still believing that antibiotics are effective against viral infections.
It said lack of programmes to prevent and control hospital-acquired infections remain a major problem.
WHO, countries and partners have developed a draft Global Action Plan to combat antimicrobial resistance, including antibiotic resistance, which has been submitted to the sixty-eighth World Health Assembly, taking place in May 15.
It said governments would be asked to approve the plan and, in doing so, declare their commitment to address a problem that threatens global health as we know it.
It noted that one essential step in implementing the Global Action Plan would be the development of comprehensive national plans in countries where they are now lacking and further develop and strengthen existing plans.
According to the report; eight out of 47 Member States in the WHO Africa Region namely Ghana, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, the Gambia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia participated in the survey.
It indicated that the data from Africa Region are incomplete due to lack of information, however the results suggest that antimicrobial resistance is a growing problem.
It said all eight countries in the region that responded stated resistance to treatments for malaria and TB as their greatest challenges.
It noted that poor-quality medicines were a general problem, contributing to the challenge.