20 August 2010

NDM-1: The World Health Organization warns governments

The World Health Organization released a statement this afternoon, prompted by news of the NDM-1 multi-resistance gene. It's worth taking a look: The agency recommends that countries around the world pay serious attention to the emergence of this resistance factor.

WHO calls for  broad action within countries, from hospital infection-control and antibiotic-stewardship programs, to increased surveillance for the emergence of resistance, to legislative control of over-the-counter sales. Those sound like (and are) minimal and rational suggestions — but they have the potential to be quite controversial in some countries, from India where OTC antibiotic purchases are a major economic sector, to the US where best practices for hospital control of resistant organisms continue to be, umm, vociferously debated.

The WHO says:
Those called upon to be alert to the problem of antimicrobial resistance and take appropriate action include consumers, prescribers and dispensers, veterinarians, managers of hospitals and diagnostic laboratories, patients and visitors to healthcare facilities, as well as national governments, the pharmaceutical industry, professional societies, and international agencies.
WHO strongly recommends that governments focus control and prevention efforts in four main areas:
  • surveillance for antimicrobial resistance;
  • rational antibiotic use, including education of healthcare workers and the public in the appropriate use of antibiotics;
  • introducing or enforcing legislation related to stopping the selling of antibiotics without prescription; and
  • strict adherence to infection prevention and control measures, including the use of hand-washing measures, particularly in healthcare facilities.

The WHO has been working on antibiotic resistance for a while now, though the effort seems to be continually obscured by urgent news of outbreaks such as SARS, H5N1, H1N1 and so on. Here's their short fact sheet, detailed program page,  and Global Strategy for Containment of Antibiotic Resistance (sadly 9 years old, so it predates the emergence of community MRSA, not to mention NDM-1).

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