Home | WHPA Press Releases | Antibiotic Resistance is a Global Public Health Threat Calling For Urgent International Action

World Medical Association [WMA]
International Council of Nurses (ICN)
International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP)



Antibiotic Resistance is a Global Public Health Threat
Calling For Urgent International Action


Fact Sheet - Antimicrobial Resistance

GENEVA, Switzerland  26 March, 2001  ---- An alarming picture is emerging surrounding the global increase in resistance to anti-biotic (antimicrobial) drugs. Multi-drug resistance tuberculosis ranges from a low of 5.3% in New Zealand, to a high of 100% in Russia. Some bacterial infections reported in Japan defy every antibiotic known today. In some areas of the world 98% of all gonorrhoea cases are multi drug resistant. "Microbes are becoming resistant to antimicrobials at a faster pace than scientists can develop new medicines, declared Ton Hoek, General Secretary of the International Pharmaceutical Federation, "We are running out of time and running out of medications to treat common infections."

The global increase in resistance to antimicrobial medicines, including the emergence of bacterial strains resistant to all available antibacterial agents, has created a public health problem of potentially crisis proportions. "The development of resistant micro organisms is a problem whenever antimicrobial agents are used, explained Dr Delon Human, CEO of the World Medical Association.  "The increase in high risk populations who frequently require antimicrobial therapy, including immunocompromised patients, those undergoing invasive medical interventions, and patients with chronic debilitating diseases has amplified the problem."

Judith Oulton, CEO of the International Council of Nurses, which represents nurses world-wide, further stated that "substantial misuse and overuse of antimicrobial agents has exacerbated the problem by adding selection pressures to microbial populations that favour mutation to antibiotic resistance.  This includes inappropriate prescribing of antibacterial prophylactics and/or treatment of bacterial infections by physicians, poor compliance with antimicrobial regimens by patients, and the availability of antimicrobial agents without a prescription in many developing countries."

The Health Professions Alliance calls for the national associations representing nurses, pharmacists and physicians to alert their members to this very serious situation and the necessity for vigilance and best practice in the use of antimicrobials.

Another key problem is the routine feeding of antibiotics to farm animals. The reason for concern is that antibiotics with the same mode of action on bacteria are also used for human therapy. Thus, it is possible that the irresponsible use of antibiotics for non-human use can lead to the development of resistance, which could then be passed onto human pathogens by transfer of plasmids. The greatest concern of all centres on the routine use of antibiotics as feed additives for farm animals - to promote animal growth and to prevent infections rather than to cure infections.  

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.




The World Health Professions Alliance brings together medicine, nursing and pharmacy through their representative international organisations, International Council of Nurses (ICN), International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and the World Medical Association (WMA) and represents more than 20 million health professionals worldwide.


  • The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is a federation of 125 national nurses' associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide.  Operated by nurses for nurses since 1899, ICN is the international voice of nursing and works to ensure quality care for all and sound health policies globally.

  • The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) is the worldwide federation of national associations of pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists. Pharmacists are health care professionals dedicated to improving access to and value of appropriate medicine use worldwide.   

  • The World Medical Association (WMA) is a global federation of national medical associations, representing the millions of physicians worldwide.  Acting on behalf of physicians and patients, the WMA endeavours to achieve the highest possible standards of medical science, education, ethics and health care for all people.


For further information contact Linda Carrier-Walker Tel :  +41 22  908 0100;
fax :   +41 22  908 0101;  email:  ; Web site  www.icn.ch 

PR/01 #7


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