September 16, 2019
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Antibiotic Resistance

ECOSOC: World Health Organization

Topic: Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics are medicines that can selectively kill certain bacteria without harming other cells. The first antibiotic was discovered in the late 19th century, and penicillin, the first mass-produced antibiotic, played a critical role in preventing infections during World War II. Now, antibiotics are commonly used to treat a wide variety of infections, in humans, pets, and livestock. Despite the immense benefits that antibiotics have brought, the overuse of antibiotics may force us to return to a time when common infections can be deadly. Strains of pneumonia, tuberculosis, and certain foodborne diseases resistant to many antibiotics are spreading across the globe.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when the bacteria targeted by an antibiotic adapt to survive treatment. Bacteria tend to develop antibiotic resistance through overuse and misuse of antibiotics, such as when a patient is prescribed antibiotics for non-bacterial illnesses, or when a patient does not complete their prescribed round of antibiotics. Antibiotics are also overused in agriculture, with livestock being given antibiotics preemptively to keep them healthy, rather than to treat ongoing infections. To counter antibiotic resistance, it is essential to raise awareness of the impact it has on global health and food security, as well as the ways that it can be mitigated. Properly cleaning and preparing food, washing hands, and maintaining livestock hygiene can help reduce the spread of antibiotic resistance. The World Health Organization also created the Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS) in 2015 to help monitor antibiotic resistances.

How can the World Health Organization promote awareness of antibiotic resistance? Should states mandate reductions in antibiotic use on livestock? Should healthcare professionals be regulated to limit antibiotic prescriptions? What can the World Health Organization do to promote the development of novel antibiotics that bacteria are not yet resistant to? Can existing initiatives be improved to better monitor and respond to antibiotic resistant infections?

Useful Links:

UN News – Finding Antibiotic Resistance to Most Common Infections:
https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/01/1001461#.Wm-evJOplBw

WHO Antibiotic Resistance Fact-Sheet:
https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antibiotic-resistance

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