Drug Resistant Infections

Authors: Molly Miller-Petrie, Suraj Pant, Ramanan Laxminarayan


The global rise in antibiotic resistance threatens to undo decades of progress in treating infectious diseases caused by bacterial pathogens. The prevalence of drug-resistant infections in children and newborns is growing, especially in India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and China. Antibiotic consumption increased more than 30 percent in 71 countries between 2000 and 2010, primarily for first-line classes of antibiotics. Many infections, both drug-resistant and drug-susceptible, are acquired in hospitals which need to adopt stewardship and infection control programs. Animal-source food products that use antibiotics to promote growth need to be regulated, perhaps following the EU model of banning their use. Handwashing, clean water, and excreta disposal avert disease and should be emphasized in conjunction with water quality and sanitation. Vaccines for pneumonia and influenza have also been shown to reduce the need for antibiotics. The pipeline of new antibiotics is relatively robust, with 7 new antibiotics approved in 2014 and 37 under development, but alternatives are still needed since resistance develops over time to all antibiotics.