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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

Hill votes will make global waves

President Biden addresses the UN General Assembly on Sept. 21, 2021 in New York City. Photo: Eduardo Munoz-Pool/Getty Images)

This epic week for President Biden on Capitol Hill is even bigger than his domestic agenda.

Why it matters: Biden has anchored his entire strategy for foreign affairs on the notion that "America is back." What that means in practice is that Biden needs to prove democracy works to rally America’s liberal allies against rising authoritarians.

56 mins ago - World

German election: Exit polls show close race to succeed Angela Merkel

SPD leader Olaf Scholz. Photo: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg via Getty Images

BERLIN — The first exit poll from Sunday's German elections showed the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the center-right Christian Democrats (CDU) in a dead heat at 25%, leaving the race to succeed Angela Merkel too close to call.

The state of play: A second exit poll showed the SPD narrowly ahead. That's the one televisions displayed at SPD headquarters in Berlin, where the room erupted into cheers. Official results will roll in throughout the evening.

Abbott says he'll hire Border Patrol agents who whipped at migrants

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Sunday defended the actions of U.S. Border Patrol agents who charged at Haitian migrants on horseback, blaming the Biden administration for not preventing them from crossing the border.

Why it matters: Abbott's remark on "Fox News Sunday" comes amid increased backlash over the incident, with President Biden saying, "I promise... those people will pay,” and the Department of Homeland Security launching an investigation.