New report suggests global consumption of antibiotics increasing, driven by LMICs

A new study has reported that the global consumption of antibiotics is rising, with the largest increases in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). This new data underscores the calls for strategies to reduce antibiotic use and support alternatives.

The research, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, reported an increase in the worldwide use of antibiotics in humans by 39% between 2000 and 2015, with dramatic increases in LMICs.

The team, from the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (DC, USA), Princeton (NJ, USA), ETH Zurich (Switzerland) and University of Antwerp (Belgium), analyzed human antibiotic consumption in 76 countries, making this study the most comprehensive assessment of trends to-date.

The researchers discovered that from 2000–2015 worldwide antibiotic consumption rates increased from 11.3 to 15.7 defined daily doses per 1,000 inhabitants per day, an increase of 39%. In addition, the total global use of antibiotics was estimated to be 35 billion defined daily doses in 2015, a 65% increase when compared with 2000.

The study also highlighted that consumption of new and last-resort antibiotic classes, such as linezolid, carbapenems and colistin, had increased significantly in nearly all countries. These findings underscore the need for global surveillance of antibiotic resistance and the introduction of policies to curtail unnecessary antibiotic use.

However, the team note that although reducing antibiotic use is critical, it will also be necessary to ensure access to antibiotics in LMICs, which often suffer from the highest rates of illness and death caused by infectious disease.

Study co-author Eili Klein (Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy) commented: “Finding workable solutions is essential, and we now have key data needed to inform those solutions. Now, more than ever, we need effective interventions, including stewardship, public education and curbing overuse of last-resort antibiotics.”

Despite the rising rates of antibiotic use worldwide, the results suggest that reducing antibiotic consumption is possible, as consumption in high-income countries fell slightly over the study period.

Director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, Ramanan Laxminarayan, concluded: “We must act decisively and we must act now, in a comprehensive manner, to preserve antibiotic effectiveness. That includes solutions that reduce consumption, such as vaccines or infrastructure improvements, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries. New drugs can do little to solve the resistance problem if these drugs are then used inappropriately, once they are introduced.”

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