Once thought of as the panacea of the medical community, antibiotics are losing their effectiveness due to overuse.  And according to health experts, that could result in devastating consequences around the world.

According to a news study from the World Health Organization, seven different strains of bacteria have become somewhat or completely resistant to antibiotics. That means diseases -such as bloodstream infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary tract infections and gonorrhea -that were once treated with a simple course of antibiotics may no longer be so easy to treat. And that raises the possibility that these once-beaten diseases will come back harder and stronger than ever.

"Without urgent, co-coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill," said Dr Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's assistant director general for health security.

The new study gathered data from 114 countries regarding antibiotic use and resistance.  Most disturbingly, the study found that antibiotic resistance is not limited to any one corner of the world.  Rather, researchers found evidence of resistance in every country studied.  

The World Health Organization is urging all countries and individuals to be more sparing in their use of antibiotics and to focus on hand washing and hygiene as a means of preventing many bugs before infections occur and before those bugs become superbugs.

"Effective antibiotics have been one of the pillars allowing us to live longer, live healthier, and benefit from modern medicine. Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these global public-health goods and the implications will be devastating," Dr. Fukuda noted.

Related posts on MNN:

Overuse of antibiotics could have dangerous consequences worldwide
Health experts warn that antibiotic-resistance could lead to a resurgence of life-threatening diseases that were once easily cured.