WHO Report on Drug Resistance

By Nancy Steinbach

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

The World Health Organization says medicines are no longer effective in treating many diseases. A new WHO report describes how almost all infectious diseases are slowly becoming resistant to existing medicines. Drugs that do not kill all the targeted bacteria can make the surviving bacteria stronger. These drug-resistant bacteria reproduce. Over time, diseases develop that are fully resistant to known medicines.

Examples include the disease malaria. Experts say the medicine used against malaria is ineffective eighty percent of the time. And AIDS is becoming resistant to the new drugs used against the virus that causes the disease.

Over a long period of time, all disease-causing organisms develop a resistance to drugs that were once effective. But resistance is developing sooner than normal because of how antibiotic drugs are used. In developing countries, many people do not take enough of an antibiotic to kill all the disease-causing bacteria. Or they may take a weak form of the medicine which does not kill all the germs. The bacteria that survive develop a resistance to the drug and the disease spreads.

The problem is the opposite in industrial nations. Antibiotic drugs are being used too much. People demand them from doctors when they are not really needed. Each time an unnecessary drug is taken, it gives germs that are present in the body a chance to become resistant. And farmers often add antibiotic drugs to animal feed to treat sick farm animals or make them grow bigger. This increases drug-resistant germs.

Officials say in ten or twenty years many diseases will become stronger than the drugs used to fight them.

The WHO report says the most effective way to improve the situation is to use drugs correctly. It says governments must educate people about the importance of this. The report says antibiotics should not be used to increase the growth of animals. And it says financial aid could help developing nations get the drugs they need. The WHO says spending fifteen-thousand-million dollars over the next ten years could cut the death rate from infectious disease by fifty percent.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by Nancy Steinbach. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English