UN mobilizes to stop super-bugs


United Nations (United States) (AFP)

World leaders called Wednesday for governments, medical researchers and consumers to take action to stop super-bugs, which resist antibiotics and are posing a growing threat to public health.

"Anti-microbial resistance poses a fundamental, long-term threat to human health, sustainable food production and development," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said as he opened a first-of-a-kind meeting on the problem on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

"We are losing our ability to protect both people and animals from life-threatening infections," he said.

Super-bugs -- or bacteria that cannot be treated by the current crop of antibiotics and other drugs -- could kill up to 10 million people around the world by 2050, as many as cancer, according to a recent British study.

Ban pointed to the outbreak of a tough strain of typhoid in Africa as well as growing resistance to AIDS treatments and a form of tuberculosis found in 105 countries that has proven impervious to antibiotics.

"Some scientists call it a slow-motion tsunami," said Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization.

"The situation is bad and getting worse," she said.

"On current trends, a common disease like gonorrhea may become untreatable. Doctors will be forced to say, 'Sorry, I can't do anything for you,'" Chan said, referring to the sexually transmitted malady.

Chan voiced concern that no new range of antibiotics had been developed in years, with the pharmaceutical industry finding the returns on their investment not worth their while.

She urged coordinated action that brings together the public and private sectors, including governments, health professionals, laboratories and also consumers.

For the public, she said that consumers should avoid meat from animals treated with antibiotics, which are commonly administered to livestock to prevent disease but also to maximize growth and profit.

Governments meeting at the United Nations signed onto an agreement to boost controls on antibiotics, step up research on drugs and treatments, and to improve awareness over anti-microbial resistance.