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April 8, 2011

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Efforts urged to combat overuse of antibiotics

WHILE Shanghai has so far escaped the latest drug-resistant superbug, the city must not be complacent, a local expert warned yesterday.

Reducing unnecessary antibiotics use is key to preventing and controlling drug-resistant bacteria, said Du Wenmin, vice director of Shanghai Clinical Center for Drug Adverse Reaction Monitoring.

Du was speaking on World Health Day, which this year is focusing on antibiotic resistance. Overuse of antibiotics leads to the development of bacteria resistant to them.

Such overuse is widespread in China. Hospitals often prescribe antibiotics as a matter of course to boost income and many patients have a blind faith in the drugs.

The latest high-profile superbug, NDM-1, an enzyme called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, was detected last October in two babies from Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and an elderly patient in Fujian Province. The babies recovered, while the elderly patient died of lung cancer.

Research into drug use in the past five years in Shanghai, Wuhan, Hangzhou, Chongqing found 30 to 40 percent of medication taken was antibiotics. According to Du, about 80 percent of domestic patients in outpatient services and 90 percent of hospitalized patients are given antibiotics.

Didn't need drugs

"Only 10 percent of patients are given antibiotics on average in the world, and even among that figure the World Health Organization said half didn't need them," Du said.

In China, bacteria have developed resistance to 70 to 80 percent of antibiotics, leading doctors to prescribe stronger antibiotics, creating a vicious circle.

Shanghai received 97,338 reports of adverse drug reactions between 2005 and 2010, leading to 625 deaths. More than 40 percent of adverse reactions were related to antibiotics, with 167 deaths. "Antibiotics have the highest report of adverse reactions in Shanghai," Du said.

Officials from Shanghai Health Bureau said forthcoming health reforms will include strict antibiotics management.

Meanwhile, drug-resistant forms of tuberculosis are on the rise in China because of the overuse of antibiotics, the Ministry of Health and the WHO warned yesterday. Around 6.8 percent of tuberculosis cases in China are multiple-drug resistant, far higher than the 2 percent rate in most developed countries, according to WHO's China office.

A WHO statement said worldwide multidrug-resistant tuberculosis kill at least 150,000 people a year.

Antibiotics are also misused in the food industry. A WHO medical officer with the TB program in China said 50 percent of antibiotics used globally are given to livestock to keep stock disease-free and promote growth, but this leads to resistance among humans eating the animal products.


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