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Antibiotics resistance
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Facts and figures

The importance of antibiotics

"Only 40% of Europeans know that antibiotics are ineffective against viruses".

(Eurobarometer 2001)

  • Pneumonia remains the single most deadly infectious disease worldwide with a yearly death toll of around 3.5 million people. In laboratory samples, up to 70% of the pathogens responsible for chest infections, including pneumonia, are found to be resistant to one of the first-line antibiotics.It is estimated that about 60% of antibiotics in human medicine are prescribed for upper respiratory infections, even though the great majority are caused by viruses – against which antibiotics are ineffective.

  • During the 1990s, tuberculosis re-emerged as one of the leading causes of mortality worldwide and is now responsible for around 1.5 million deaths annually. The situation is particularly severe in poor countries where the spread of the disease is closely linked to the AIDS epidemic. Moreover, poor treatment compliance is now resulting in the rapid emergence of multi-drug resistant strains.

  • In developed countries, up to 60% of hospital-acquired infections are due to drug-resistant microbes. The most recent of these to appear are vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE) and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). These ‘hospital’ infections are now beginning to spread into the general community.

  • Almost half of all antibiotics consumed are used either to treat sick animals, or as growth promoters, or to destroy various pathogens in foodstuffs. This continuous – often low-level –dosing favours the development of resistance in bacteria in or near livestock, and may produce new resistant strains capable of ‘jumping’ from animals to humans. VRE is one example of a resistant bacterium appearing in animals that may already have jumped to humans.

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Facts and figures