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Crackdown on antibiotic abuse stepped up

By Shan Juan (China Daily)

09:11, July 06, 2012

Children are put on drip in the crowded transfusion room of the pediatrics department at the Huangshi Central Hospital in Hubei province in June. (China Daily/Qiu Xiaowei)

China is stepping up efforts to crack down on widespread prescription drug abuse that is leading to rising levels of antibiotic resistance across the country.

In the latest move to tackle the problem, the Ministry of Health has launched a nationwide surveillance system to document cases of antibiotic-resistant bacteria at 1,349 large public hospitals across the mainland.

There will also be closer monitoring of the system that keeps track of doctors' prescriptions of antibiotics at public hospitals.

And tough new regulations to control the clinical use of antibiotics will take effect on Aug 1.

The moves come days after the World Health Organization weighed in on the growing threat from worldwide antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. In a statement, the WHO warned that millions of people with gonorrhea could be at risk of running out of treatment options unless urgent action is taken.

Several countries, including Australia, France, Japan, Norway and Sweden, have reported cases of resistance to cephalosporin antibiotics — the last treatment option against the sexually-transmitted disease.

"Antibiotic resistance has no borders, and curbing its misuse is a responsibility shared by all," said Zhao Minggang, deputy director of the department of medical administration under the ministry.

"The ministry's latest initiative will help health authorities to accurately track the use of antibiotic drugs in real time and detect potential cases of antibiotic resistance as soon as possible to better guide clinical drug use in general."

Zhao said it usually takes 10 years to develop new antibiotics, but bacterial resistance develops within two years, largely due to antibiotic abuse.

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