Patient safety

Launching a new WHO publication on Antimicrobial Resistance

On 8 March, 2012, WHO launched a new book "The evolving threat of antimicrobial resistance - Options for action". It examines the experiences with interventions which address the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance, describes the lessons learnt along the way and highlights the gaps still remaining. It draws attention to areas where knowledge is lacking and where urgent action is still needed.

During the event, Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO Assistant Director-General emphasized that “this book illustrates the fact that it is feasible to combat AMR and that actions are possible against all the major drivers of resistance” and “it also shows that action is doable everywhere, in all countries and regions of the world”.

The aim of the book is to raise awareness about AMR and to stimulate further efforts to meet the recommendations outlined in the WHO 2001 Strategy for Containment of AMR and in the 2011 World Health Day policy package. It does so by examining the current situation, and setting out what has been done and what could still be done around the world, in high-, middle- and low-income countries. While much of what is summarized in this publication is well known to the scientific community, yet awareness at the political level is essential, but often lacking. A specific objective is therefore to encourage policy-makers and the global community to commit to intensified action against AMR.

Documents and presentations of the launch

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A crisis has been building up over decades, meaning that today common yet life-threatening infections are becoming difficult or even impossible to treat. Infections which are increasingly resistant to antibiotics are causing a heavy disease burden, particularly in developing countries. Although most policy-makers, scientists and professionals recognize the urgency of the AMR situation, there is still widespread complacency about comprehensively addressing this global threat. The assumption is that scientific advances will eventually resolve the problem by bringing in a new and endless supply of potent anti-infective medicines. But the reality is that there are very few new antibiotics on the horizon, and developing new antimicrobials is not a priority for pharmaceutical companies.

Many of the medical advances in recent years, such as chemotherapy for cancer treatment and organ transplantation, are dependent on effective anti-infective drugs. "In terms of new replacement antibiotics, the pipeline is virtually dry. But much can be done," says Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. "This includes prescribing antibiotics appropriately and only when needed, following treatment correctly, restricting the use of antibiotics in food production to therapeutic purposes and tackling the problem of substandard and counterfeit medicines". WHO has made Antimicrobial Resistance an organization-wide priority which was the focus of World Health Day 2011.