WHO fact sheet on Antimicrobial resistance (updated 29 April 2015)

On 29 April 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its fact sheet on Antimicrobial resistance.

The update presents the latest information available on antimicrobial resistance from 114 countries, and incorporates data from the report on surveillance, 2014.

Background information:

Antibiotic resistance: Specifically refers to resistance to antibiotics occurring in common disease causing bacteria.

Antimicrobial resistance: Refers to resistance to drugs to treat infections caused by other microbes as well, such as parasites (e.g. malaria), viruses (e.g. HIV) and fungi (e.g. Candida).

Key Messages:

  • No major new types of antibiotics have been developed in the last 30 years.
  • Antimicrobial resistance threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi.
  • Antimicrobial resistance is present in all parts of the world. New resistance mechanisms emerge and spread globally.
  • In 2012, WHO reported a gradual increase in resistance to HIV drugs, albeit not reaching critical levels. Since then, further increases in resistance to first-line treatment drugs were reported, which might require using more expensive drugs in the near future.
  • In 2013, there were about 480 000 new cases of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) has been identified in 100 countries. MDR-TB requires treatment courses that are much longer and less effective than those for non-resistant TB.
  • There are high proportions of antibiotic resistance in bacteria that cause common infections (e.g. urinary tract infections, pneumonia, bloodstream infections) in all regions of the world. A high percentage of hospital-acquired infections are caused by highly resistant bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA) or multidrug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria.
  • Treatment failures due to resistance to treatments of last resort for gonorrhoea (third-generation cephalosporins) have been reported from 10 countries. Gonorrhoea may soon become untreatable as no vaccines or new drugs are in development.
  • Patients with infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria are generally at increased risk of worse clinical outcomes and death, and consume more health-care resources than patients infected with the same bacteria that are not resistant.
  • If the present trend continues unchecked, people may start dying from common infections and minor injuries.

Antimicrobial resistance is a global concern because:

Antimicrobial resistance

  • kills
  • hampers the control of infectious diseases
  • increases the costs of health care
  • jeopardizes health care gains to society

How can we address the issue?

People can help tackle resistance by:

  • hand washing, and avoiding close contact with sick people to prevent transmission of bacterial infections and viral infections such as influenza or rotavirus, and using condoms to prevent the transmission of sexually-transmitted infections;
  • getting vaccinated, and keeping vaccinations up to date;
  • using antimicrobial drugs only when they are prescribed by a certified health professional;
  • completing the full treatment course (which in the case of antiviral drugs may require life-long treatment), even if they feel better;
  • never sharing antimicrobial drugs with others or using leftover prescriptions.

Health workers and pharmacists can help tackle resistance by:

  • enhancing infection prevention and control in hospitals and clinics;
  • only prescribing and dispensing antibiotics when they are truly needed;
  • prescribing and dispensing the right antimicrobial drugs to treat the illness.

Policymakers can help tackle resistance by:

  • improving monitoring around the extent and causes of resistance;
  • strengthening infection control and prevention;
  • regulating and promoting appropriate use of medicines;
  • making information widely available on the impact of antimicrobial resistance and how the public and health professionals can play their part;
  • rewarding innovation and development of new treatment options and other tools.

Useful links:

Link to the updated fact sheet on antimicrobial resistance:


Link to the Antimicrobial resistance global report on surveillance 2014:


Link to the summary of the above report:


Link to a slide set on the topic:


Link to an infographic on antimicrobial resistance:



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