On April 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a new report that identifies antibiotic-resistant infections as a serious threat to global health. “Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill,” says Dr Keiji Fukuda, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Security. “Effective antibiotics have been one of the pillars allowing us to live longer, live healthier, and benefit from modern medicine. Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these global public health goods and the implications will be devastating.” The report focuses on antibiotic resistance in bacteria responsible for common, serious diseases such as bloodstream infections (sepsis), diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and gonorrhea. Here are some of the key points. Antibiotic resistance is happening in every region of the world The WHO report shows that antibacterial resistance is happening in all of the WHO regions, including the US. In fact, a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that the homes of New York City residents who contracted MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) are major reservoirs for the bacteria, which can be further spread to housemates and neighbors. The WHO report reveals that tracking of antibiotic resistance is lacking in some regions and that worldwide coordination needs to be improved. Doing so will allow experts to assess the true extent of the problem. Antibiotic resistance increases risk of death and healthcare costs According to the WHO, antibiotic resistance causes patients to be sick for longer, leading to lengthier stays and more expensive treatments. More importantly, antibiotic resistance greatly increases the risk of death. People who contract MRSA are estimated to be 64% more likely to die than people with a non-resistant form of the infection. No new major antibiotics have been developed in 30 years When exposed to antibiotics, particularly if they are not used correctly, microbes will become resistant and pass along the resistance as they proliferate. Because no new major antibiotic drugs have been introduced in three decades, microbes have had ample time to develop resistance. Therefore, there is a significant need for new treatments. Patients and healthcare providers can take steps to reduce resistance In addition to developing new drugs, patients and healthcare providers play a large role in reducing antibiotic resistance. The WHO instructs healthcare providers to only prescribe and dispense antibiotics when they are truly needed, and when they do, prescribe and dispense the right antibiotic(s) to treat the illness. Patients are also instructed to only use antibiotics when they are prescribed by a doctor, complete the full prescription, and never share antibiotics with others.