WHO warns of increasing drug resistance, return to pre-antibiotic days

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for global action to combat the growing problem of drug resistance as diseases get harder to contain.

The organization, which marked its 63rd anniversary on Thursday with a campaign to fight drug resistance, warned of a possible return to the days before antibiotics were developed.

WHO cautioned that misuse and irrational use of drugs are weakening the fight against diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria that should have been contained decades ago. At the same time, other age-old diseases are on the rise, with the possibility of no cures.

"Antimicrobial drug resistance is a complex problem, and it requires a comprehensive response among and between member states across different sectors," Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, said in a statement.

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of a microorganism to stop an antimicrobial medicine from working against it. It is a consequence of many factors, but primarily caused by the inappropriate and irrational use of antimicrobials.

Dr Graham Harrison, Acting WHO Representative in Vietnam, said there are 5,900 cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in Vietnam, causing 1,800 deaths per year. Extremely drug resistant tuberculosis, which is even more serious, has also been reported in the country.

"Surveillance of transmitted HIV drug resistance in Ho Chi Minh City in 2008 reported an estimated 5-15 percent of people are already resistant to antiretroviral medicines even before starting the life-saving therapy," Harrison said at an event held to raise awareness on antimicrobial resistance in Vietnam.

"WHO therefore calls on all key stakeholders, including policy-makers and planners, the public and patients, health practitioners, pharmacists, and the pharmaceutical industry, to act and take responsibility for combating antimicrobial resistance," he said.

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