In a recent report, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued a warning to Ukraine about the escalating risk of antibiotic-resistant infections in its hospitals and health facilities. This escalating crisis, amplified by the ongoing conflict, is not just a local threat but holds potential global implications.
Rise in Antibiotic-Resistant Infections
Ukrainian public health officials have conducted extensive research in three regional hospitals - Ternopil, Khmelnytsky, and Vinnytsia. Out of the 353 patients examined, about 14%, or 50 patients, were found to have acquired infections during their stay at the health facilities. Alarmingly, 60% of these infected patients exhibited pathogens resistant to a wide range of drugs, indicating a tenfold increase compared to the pre-war trend of about 6%.
Identifying the Root Cause
Initial investigations into the problem have highlighted multiple failures, including poor hand hygiene among healthcare workers treating battlefield wounds. Furthermore, there are significant challenges in equipping laboratories and operating rooms, with biosafety assessments currently at a suboptimal level. The CDC's special report in August mentioned the detection of six different drug-resistant bacteria in just one Ukrainian patient, further underscoring the severity of the situation.
Global Implications of the Crisis
The WHO has warned that antibiotic-resistant infections are among the biggest threats to global public health. In 2019, over one million people died worldwide due to antibiotic resistance. The experiences in other war zones have shown that delayed responses can have severe long-term consequences, not only for the local civilians but also for the entire world. Therefore, the current crisis in Ukraine demands immediate and decisive action.