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Authors See Sharp Rise in Global Antibiotic Use

Findings raise serious concerns for public health

According to a new study led by researchers at Princeton University, the use of antibiotics has increased by 36% worldwide within a decade, much of it unwarranted. The rise heightens concerns that overuse of antibiotics is leaving more of the world’s population vulnerable to drug-resistant bacteria.

The new findings were published online July 10 in Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Using sales data for retail and hospital pharmacies from the IMS Health MIDAS database, the authors reviewed trends for the consumption of standard units of antibiotics between 2000 and 2010 in 71 countries. They found that, during this period, the consumption of antibiotic drugs increased by 36% (from 54,083,964,813 standard units to 73,620,748,816 standard units). Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa accounted for 76% of the increase.

Higher use of antibiotics coincided with the influenza virus season, even though they are ineffective as a treatment against the flu.

Most troubling, the authors noted increased consumption of carbapenems (45%) and polymixins (13%), two last-resort classes of antibiotic. These treatments are often used against enterobacteriaceae, such as salmonella and shigella.

The authors also observed a rise in the use of cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones in low- and middle-income countries, probably in response to acute diarrheal illnesses and fever-producing diseases, such as dengue and chikungunya, even though most of these disorders are caused by viruses, which do not respond to antibiotics.

According to the investigators, the global increase in antibiotic consumption and the increased use of last-resort antibiotic drugs raise serious concerns for public health. To preserve antibiotic efficacy worldwide, they recommend priority implementation of programs that promote rational antibiotic use through coordinated efforts by the international community.

Sources: Medical Xpress; July 11, 2014, and Lancet Infectious Diseases; July 10, 2014.

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