Global trends – bacteria

Resistance in bacteria

Antibiotic resistance is present in every country.

Patients with infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria are at increased risk of worse clinical outcomes and death, and consume more health care resources than patients infected with nonresistant strains of the same bacteria.

Resistance in Klebsiella pneumoniae – common intestinal bacteria that can cause life-threatening infections – to a last-resort treatment (carbapenem antibiotics) has spread to all regions of the world. K. pneumoniae is a major cause of hospital-acquired infections such as pneumonia, bloodstream infections and infections in newborns and intensive-care unit patients. In some countries, because of resistance, carbapenem antibiotics do not work in more than half of people treated for K. pneumoniae infections.

Resistance in Escherichia coli to one of the most widely used medicines for the treatment of urinary tract infections (fluoroquinolone antibiotics) is very widespread. There are countries in many parts of the world where this treatment is now ineffective in more than half of patients.

Treatment failure of the last-resort medicine for gonorrhoea (third-generation cephalosporin antibiotics) has been confirmed in at least 10 countries (Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Japan, Norway, Slovenia, South Africa, Sweden and the United Kingdom).

WHO recently updated the treatment guidelines for gonorrhoea to address emerging resistance. The new WHO guidelines do not recommend quinolones (a class of antibiotic) for the treatment of gonorrhoea due to widespread high levels of resistance. WHO also updated treatment guidelines for chlamydial infections and syphilis.

Resistance to first-line drugs used to treat infections caused by Staphylococcus aureus – a common cause of severe infections in health facilities and communities – is widespread. People with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) are estimated to be 64% more likely to die than people with a nonresistant form of the infection.

Colistin is the last-resort treatment for life-threatening infections caused by Enterobacteriaceae, which are resistant to carbapenems. Resistance to colistin has recently been detected in several countries and regions, making infections caused by such bacteria untreatable.