Lab Canada

National report card on antibiotic resistance commends efforts but sounds warning

Toronto, ON – Canada remains among the most successful countries in the world in the fight against antibiotic resistance, but new data announced today indicate that while some rates of resistance are decreasing, others are showing an upward trend.

The National Report Card on Antibiotic Resistance was released today as part of the sixth annual Antibiotic Awareness Week (February 14 to 18) organized by the National Information Program on Antibiotics (NIPA), a coalition of eight leading Canadian physician, pharmacist and patient organizations created in 1996 to help educate Canadians about the appropriate use of antibiotics. “Resistance rates for penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae (PRSP) have stabilized and even decreased slightly, from 15.1% in 2003 to 14.6% in 2004,” says Dr Donald Low, microbiologist-in-chief at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and principal investigator, Canadian Bacterial Surveillance Network (CBSN), which collected the data. “However, other resistance rates, such as for erythromycin-resistant S pneumoniae, are on the rise," he adds. "This is cause for some concern.”

S pneumoniae is the leading infectious cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide and the most common bacterial cause of community-acquired infections such as bronchitis, sinusitis, middle ear infections and pneumonia.

The rate of erythromycin-resistant S pneumoniae in Canada has increased from 16% in 2003 to 18.3% in 2004. “While these rates are worrisome,” adds Dr Low, “they are still considerably lower than those in other countries, including the United States (29%), Japan (71%) and Hong Kong (82%).”

The decline in penicillin resistance in Canada parallels the decline in total prescribing of penicillin. “This helps explain why rates of PRSP continue to remain significantly lower in Canada than in many other parts of the world,” Dr Low notes. Those rates range from more than 40% in parts of sub-Saharan Africa to as high as 70% in East Asia. In the United States, the latest figures show PRSP rates at about 30%.