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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Due to the lack of new antibiotics in the pipeline, current drugs must be better monitored and prescribed before the problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) reaches a "Titanic" stage, World Health Organization scientists warned Tuesday as they launch a campaign to promote the use of a monitoring tool, AWaRe.

Why it matters: The growing level of superbugs is a potentially "catastrophic" global threat that could have a yearly death toll of 10 million people by 2050. WHO says using AWaRe would be one tool in promoting its goal that 60% of all antibiotics used come from the "access" category of antibiotics, or what's typically thought of as the first or second line of defense.

The backdrop: WHO's essential medicines list divides antibiotics into 3 categories: "access," "watch," and "reserve" with recommendations for when each category should be used.

But, WHO scientists say too many countries either don't have appropriate access to antibiotics or are using antibiotics incorrectly — including for wrong diagnoses, animal husbandry and even plants — causing an increase in AMR.

  • "We need to keep antibiotics working for everyone," which calls for proper monitoring and management of prescriptions, Mariângela Simão, WHO's assistant director general for access to medicines, said in a press briefing.
  • The scientists pointed to the concerning spread of resistant gram-negative bacteria, including Acinetobacter, E. coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae, which often strike hospital patients with problems like pneumonia, bloodstream infections, sepsis, wound or surgical site infections, and meningitis.
  • Another problem is the huge gap between low- and middle-income countries in access to effective and appropriate antibiotics. Simão says more than 1 million children die due to treatable pneumonia, likely from lack of access to appropriate antibiotics.

The bottom line: If AMR is not halted, "this will probably lead to a halt in modern medicine as we know it today," says Hanan Balkhy, WHO's assistant director general for antimicrobial resistance.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

14 mins ago - Sports

Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance

Former Utah Jazz player John Stockton during a 2017 press conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Gonzaga University suspend the season tickets of notable alumni John Stockton after the NBA Hall of Famer failed to comply with the school's basketball games mask mandate, the Spokesman-Review first reported.

Driving the news: "Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit," the former Utah Jazz point guard told the outlet in an interview Saturday.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

State Department orders evacuation of U.S. diplomats' families from Ukraine

From left, Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Chargés d'Affaires in Ukraine Kristina Kvien during a meeting with Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal in Kyiv. Photo: Yevhen Liubimov/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

The State Department will begin evacuating families and non-essential staff from the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv this week, according to a travel advisory published Sunday evening.

Why it matters: The move underscores U.S. fears that a Russian invasion could destabilize Ukraine and threaten embassy's ability to assist Americans.

Perfect storm brewing for extreme politicians

Data: Axios research; Table: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Redistricting and a flood of departing incumbents are paving the way for more extreme candidates in this year's midterm elections.

Driving the news: At least 19 House districts in 12 states are primed to attract such candidates — hard partisans running in strongly partisan districts — according to an Axios analysis of districts as measured by the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index (PVI).