GENEVA - World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday warned that the world is "losing its ability" to use critically important antimicrobial medicines.
The WHO chief said that the pandemic has led to an increased use of antibiotics, which ultimately will lead to higher bacterial resistance rates
Speaking at a virtual press conference on Monday, the WHO chief said that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased use of antibiotics, which ultimately will lead to higher bacterial resistance rates.
Calling the threat of antimicrobial resistance "one of the most urgent challenges of our time," Tedros urged the world to find new models to incentivize sustainable innovation in this regard.
"On the supply side, there is essentially very little market incentive to developing new antibiotics and antimicrobial agents, which has led to multiple market failures of very promising tools in the past few years," he said.
According to a press release issued on Monday, high rates of resistance among antimicrobials frequently used to treat common infections, such as urinary tract infections or some forms of diarrhea, indicate that the world is running out of effective ways to tackle these diseases.
"For instance, the rate of resistance to ciprofloxacin, an antimicrobial frequently used to treat urinary tract infections, varied from 8.4 percent to 92.9 percent in 33 reporting countries," the press release reads.
WHO experts and a range of other scientists said Monday there was no evidence to support an assertion by a high-profile Italian doctor that the coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic has been losing potency.
Professor Alberto Zangrillo, head of intensive care at Italy's San Raffaele Hospital in Lombardy on Sunday told state television that the new coronavirus "clinically no longer exists".
There is no data to show that the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is changing significantly, either in its form of transmission or in the severity of the disease it causes, WHO experts and a range of other scientists said
But WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove and several other experts on viruses and infectious diseases said Zangrillo's comments were not supported by scientific evidence.
There is no data to show the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is changing significantly, either in its form of transmission or in the severity of the disease it causes, they said.
It is not unusual for viruses to mutate and adapt as they spread. The pandemic has so far killed more than 370,000 people and infected more than 6 million.
Zangrillo told Reuters: "We have never said that the virus has changed, we said that the interaction between the virus and the host has definitely changed."
“The suggestion by the Italian doctor is potentially dangerous as it gives false reassurance based on no evidence,” said Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University. “There is no scientific evidence for there having been a change in the coronavirus. It’s a highly transmittable and highly contagious disease. We need to be as on guard as ever.”
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