November 16, 2015
3 min read

WHO, CDC dedicate week to raise awareness of antibiotic resistance

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WHO and the CDC simultaneously launched two campaigns held from Nov. 16 to Nov. 22 to increase the awareness of antibiotic resistance, according to a pair of press releases.

“The rise of antibiotic resistance is a global health crisis, and governments now recognize it as one of the greatest challenges for public health today,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, MD, said in a press release. It is reaching dangerously high levels in all parts of the world [and] is compromising our ability to treat infectious diseases and undermining many advances in medicine.”

Margaret Chan

Margaret Chan

Drug-resistant bacteria causes approximately 25,000 deaths in the European Union alone, costing more than $1.5 billion each year in health care expenses and productivity losses, according to WHO.

WHO launches World Antibiotic Awareness Week

World Antibiotic Awareness Week was developed as a component of a global action plan endorsed by the World Health Assembly in May to improve the awareness and understanding of resistance. The theme of the campaign, “Antibiotics: Handle with Care,” reflects the importance of using antibiotics only when they are personally prescribed by a certified health professional.

To identify gaps in public understanding, WHO investigators administered a 14-question survey to approximately 10,000 participants from Barbados, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Serbia, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam.

Sixty-four percent of respondents said they knew that antibiotic resistance was an issue; however, 76% said resistance occurs when the body, rather than bacteria, becomes resistant to drugs. Many respondents did not believe they were at risk for drug-resistant infection if they followed their prescription (66%), and said that resistance only occurs in people who regularly take medication (44%).

In addressing resistance, 57% of respondents said there is not much that can be done, and 64% said medical experts can resolve the issue before it becomes more serious. In addition, 73% of respondents suggested that farmers give fewer antibiotics to food-producing animals.

“The findings of this survey point to the urgent need to improve understanding around antibiotic resistance,” Keiji Fukuda, MD, MPH, special representative of WHO’s director-general for antimicrobial resistance, said in the release. “This campaign is just one of the ways we are working with governments, health authorities and other partners to reduce antibiotic resistance. One of the biggest health challenges of the 21st century will require global behavior change by individuals and societies.”

CDC announces Get Smart About Antibiotics Week

On Sept. 18, 2014, the White House issued an executive order stating the federal government would work with domestic and international partners to detect, prevent and control antibiotic-resistant infections by implementing practices that reduce the emergence and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, according to the CDC.

To fight resistance, the agency launched “Get Smart About Antibiotics Week,” which is aimed to improve antibiotic stewardship in communities and health care facilities and highlight the importance of appropriate antibiotic prescribing. According to the CDC, more than half of antibiotics for upper respiratory infections and nearly one-third of antibiotics used in hospitals are inappropriately prescribed.

The program is supported by more than 150 companies, state-based programs and nonprofit organizations that are using a variety strategies to promote awareness, which include stewardship programs developed by Ascension Health; prescription surveillance conducted by the Hospital Corporation of America; public service announcements used in Wal-Mart stores and major airlines; and more.

“All of us can take action,” Lauri Hicks, DO, director of the CDC’s office of antibiotic stewardship, said in the release. “The way we use antibiotics today impacts how useful they will be tomorrow. We all have a responsibility to be vigilant — consumers, parents, health care providers, hospitals, governments.”

Lauri Hicks

The CDC recommends that all clinicians improve prescribing practices, all patients follow their prescriptions, and that everyone practices good hygiene and is vaccinated against influenza and other preventable infections.


To help raise awareness, Infectious Disease News/ compiled a list of the top five stories on antibiotic resistance.

Drug development critical to combating antibiotic resistance

Infectious Disease News spoke with several experts about the threat of antimicrobial resistance and the need for new drug treatments. Read more.

Global antibiotic consumption, resistance rising

Antibiotic use and antimicrobial resistance appear to be increasing globally, with India demonstrating the highest rates of resistance to multiple drug classes. Read more.

Growing antibiotic resistance threatens surgical procedures, chemotherapy

A meta-analysis of nearly 300 randomized controlled trials showed that a significant portion of pathogens responsible for surgical site infections and infections after immunosuppressing chemotherapy are resistant to standard prophylactic antibiotics. Read more.

AAAS 2015: Keeping up with antibiotic resistance

Two presentations at the 2015 AAAS Annual Meeting addressed the pivotal role of antibiotics in the treatment of bacterial infections and the reality of resistance. Read more.

Overprescribed fluoroquinolones for cystitis increases risk for antibiotic resistance

Data presented at ICAAC 2015 showed that most primary care providers inappropriately prescribed fluoroquinolone antibiotics for acute cystitis, and that 75% of all antibiotics were prescribed longer than the recommended duration. Read more.