WHPA Fact Sheet
World Health Professions
Alliance Fact Sheet
Antimicrobials, including antibiotics, are a class of medications developed
to combat microbial infections and the diseases they cause. Penicillin,
the first of the antibiotic compounds to be widely used, was introduced
in the 1940s and rapidly became a "wonder drug" which saved literally
millions of lives. Along with other antimicrobials, this revolutionized
modern medicine, decreasing mortality and morbidity caused by bacterial
However, for many antimicrobials, the development
of resistance in several pathogenic bacteria now limits their effectiveness.
In some cases the situation has become alarming, with the emergence of
pathogenic strains that show multiple resistance to a broad range of antibiotics.
Some facts and figures about
anti-microbial resistance *
||Deaths from acute respiratory infections,
diarrhoeal diseases, measles, AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis account
for more than 85% of deaths worldwide. Resistance to drugs in
most of these pathogens causing these diseases ranges from 0-100%.
||Some bacterial infections reported
in Japan defy every antibiotic known to modern medicine.
||One of the most important examples
concerns multiple-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus in hospitals. Today, many bacteria that most frequently cause
hospital-acquired infections are resistant to the preferred antibiotic
for treatment. In the industrialized world, anti-biotic resistant
microbes cause approximately 60% of all hospital-acquired infections.
|| In some areas of the world 98%
of all gonorrhea cases are multi-medicine resistant. For many
other sexually transmitted diseases, penicillin–resistant bacteria
has increased by as much as 60-80%.
||Malaria causes about 1 million deaths
each year and anti-microbial resistance is a rapidly growing problem
in treating malaria.
||Multiple medicine resistant tuberculosis
ranges from a low of 5.3% in New Zealand to 100% in Russia.
||Treating one patient with multi-resistant
tuberculosis can cost as much as treating 100 patients with tuberculosis.
||The risk of new resistant strains
of microbes increases when patients fail to take antimicrobial medications
for the full length of therapy, and when antimicrobials are prescribed
or given to patients inappropriately.
|| In some countries 30-60% of primary
health care patients receive antimcirobials. This is about twice
what is clinically indicated.
||By weight, half of all antibiotics
are given to livestock and fish in a prophylactic attempt to prevent
Recommendations for action
1. Patients and the community
- The public should be informed that taking antibiotics
(antimicrobials) for shorter than the recommended duration can increase
the risk of resistant microbes emerging.
- The public should be informed that using antibiotics
when not needed can increase the risk of anti-biotic resistance.
- Simple measures that may reduce transmission of
infection in the household and the community, such as hand washing,
food hygiene, should be encouraged and utilised.
- Patients should not self-initiate antibiotic treatment.
- · Suitable alternatives to antimicrobials
for relief of symptoms should be sought.
2. Health professionals
- Prescribe antimicrobials only when appropriate.
- Seek suitable alternatives to antimicrobials for
relief of symptoms.
- Educate all prescribers and dispensers, including
drug sellers, on the importance of appropriate antimicrobial use and
containment of antimicrobial resistance.
- Health professionals should raise awareness amongst
their patients of their antimicrobial therapy, the risks and benefits,
the importance of compliance with the prescribed regimen, and the problem
of antimicrobial resistance.
- Monitor prescribing and dispensing practices and
utilise peer group or external standard comparisons.
- Encourage standard use of guidelines and treatment
algorithms to foster appropriate use of antimicrobials.
- Link professional registration requirements for
prescribers and dispensers to requirements for training and continuing
- National associations representing the health professions
should encourage professional schools and continuing medical education
programs to educate about appropriate use of antimicrobial agents.
3. Hospitals, other health facilities
- Establish infection control programmes and effective
management of antimicrobial resistance.
- Develop and update guidelines for antimicrobial
treatment and prophylaxis.
- Monitor antimicrobial usage including quantity
and patterns of use, and feedback results to prescribers.
4. Governments, industry and the World
- Individual governments should cooperate with and
enhance the effectiveness of the World Health Organization’s global
network of antimicrobial resistance surveillance.
- Governments should fund more basic and applied
research directed toward development of innovative antimicrobial agents
and vaccines, and the appropriate and safe use of such therapeutic tools.
- Governments to require antimicrobial agents to
be available only through prescription, by licensed qualified health
care and veterinary professionals.
- The pharmaceutical industry should be encouraged
to pursue research and development programmes leading to the availability
of innovative antimicrobial agents and vaccines.
- HPA calls for national associations of health professionals
and the veterinary profession to forcefully encourage a responsible
use of antimicrobial agents for humans and animals.
Source: The World Health
- The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is a federation of national nurses associations, representing the more than 13 million nurses working worldwide. www.icn.ch
- The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) is the global federation of national organisations of pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists representing more than two million pharmacists around the world. www.fip.org
- The World Medical Association (WMA) is the global federation of national medical associations from around the world, directly and indirectly representing the views of more than nine million physicians. www.wma.net
For further information
World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA)
Dr. Julia Seyer, M.Sc. ,BP 63, 01210 Ferney Voltaire, France
Tel.: 0033 (0) 450 40 75 75 , Fax: 0033 (0) 450 40 59 37
- web: www.whpa.org