The World Health Organization (WHO) is reminded Monday of the dangerous increase in antibiotic use in some countries, as well as low consumption in other regions, which could lead to fatal "superbugs" occurring.
The WHO report, based on 2015 data collected in 65 countries and regions, shows a significant difference in consumption, from 4 daily doses (DDD) per 1,000 inhabitants per day in Burundi to over 64 in Mongolia.
"These differences indicate that some countries are likely to consume too much antibiotics while others may not have sufficient access to these drugs," said the WHO in a statement.
Discovered in the 1920s, antibiotics saved tens of millions of lives by effectively combating bacterial diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and meningitis.
But over the years, bacteria have been modified to withstand such medications.
WHO has on several occasions warned that the number of effective antibiotics is decreasing in the world.
Last year, the UN agency called on states and major drug groups to create a new generation of drugs that can fight ultra-resistant "superbugs".
"Excessive consumption and insufficient use of antibiotics are the main causes of antimicrobial resistance," said Suzanne Hill, Chief of Essential Drugs and Health Products at WHO.
"Without effective antibiotics and other antimicrobial agents, we will lose our ability to treat infections as widespread as pneumonia," he warned.
Bacteria can become resistant when patients use antibiotics that they do not need or when they do not finish their treatments. Thus, the bacteria are easier to survive and develop immunity.
WHO is also concerned about the low consumption of antibiotics.
"Resistance can develop when patients can not afford full treatment or only have access to substandard or altered drugs," the report says.
In Europe, the average consumption of antibiotics is about 18 daily doses per 1,000 inhabitants per day. Turkey leads the list (38 defined daily doses), that is about five times more than the last classification, Azerbaijan (8 defined daily doses).
However, the WHO acknowledges that the report is incomplete because it covers only four countries in Africa, three in the Middle East and six in the Asia Pacific. The major absence of this study is the US, China and India.
Since 2016, WHO has helped 57 low and middle income countries to collect data to create a model system for monitoring antibiotic use.