Researchers at the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (CDDEP) have released new data documenting alarming rates of bacteria resistant to last-resort antibiotics that can lead to life-threatening infections across the world. Though wealthy countries still use far more antibiotics per capita, high rates in the low- and middle-income countries where surveillance data now is available—such as India, Kenya and Vietnam—sound a warning to the world.
For example, in India, 57% of the infections caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae, a dangerous superbug found in hospitals, were found to be resistant to one type of last-resort drug in 2014, up from 29% in 2008. For comparison, these drugs, known as carbapenems, are still effective against Klebsiella infections in 90% of cases in the U.S. and more than 95% of cases in most of Europe.
The findings were released via CDDEP’s ResistanceMap, an interactive online tool that allows users to track the latest global trends in drug resistance in 39 countries, and antibiotic use in 69 countries.
CDDEP also issued the first report to look comprehensively at the current state of global antibiotic use and drug resistance in humans, livestock and the environment. The report, “The State of the World’s Antibiotics, 2015,” lays out six strategies that belong in every national plan to halt the spread of resistance. Report authors say antibiotic stewardship is the key component of that action, and they challenge the frequently cited notion that the problem with antibiotic resistance is a lack of new drugs in the antibiotic pipeline.
“For the first time, we have data on low- and middle-income countries, where antibiotic resistance is a serious problem but rarely the focus of policy solutions,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, CDDEP director and report co-author. “We hope this report, together with the ResistanceMap online tool, will help empower these countries to understand the burden of antibiotic resistance in their region and then take coordinated, research-backed action to limit it.”
ResistanceMap’s data come from a variety of sources, from small private laboratories in India to large datasets from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, covering 30 countries. ResistanceMap, supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, includes data from South Africa, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Kenya, Australia and New Zealand, among others, and will continue to be expanded and updated. Data from China, Nepal, Mozambique and the Philippines will be added soon.
One major drawback to focusing on drug development as a solution is that new antibiotics are significantly more expensive than those currently available—far more costly than people in low- and middle-income countries can afford. Dozens of new antibiotics have been developed in the last few years, but on a global scale, almost no one can afford them, said the report authors.
The World Health Organization recently highlighted the need for country-level antibiotic resistance plans in May 2015 when it endorsed the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance, which calls on all countries to adopt national strategies within two years. The new CDDEP report can help countries take action to achieve this goal.