Millions of lives at risk from resistance to antibiotics

NEW DELHI - The World Health Organization has adopted a plan to combat an alarming resistance against antibiotic drugs. It's an issue health experts warn will threaten millions of lives if not addressed.

India, a country where antibiotics are purchased over the counter, is on the front lines of the problem. In New Delhi, baby Prince, less than a month old, has been in and out of hospitals, and is not responding to multiple antibiotics

"I've been very scared," his mother Anju Davie admitted. "It came as a shock. How is my baby so sick?"

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A mother in New Delhi looks after her sick baby who has not responded to multiple antibiotics
CBS News

Dr. Nellam Clare, chief neonatologist at Sirgangaram Hospital, says 67 percent of babies referred to her intensive care unit are resistant to multiple antibiotics. She's prescribing drugs she wouldn't have imagined using a decade ago.

"You have to resort to use these antibiotics because they are the only ones which can work in these babies," Dr. Clare said.

Antibiotics sold over the counter in India are often the first course of treatment. But misusing and over-prescribing these drugs makes bacteria resistant to antibiotics, leading to superbugs.

Delicate newborns are particularly sensitive. Dr. Clare says she's seeing premature babies who need adult-powered antibiotics.

Doctors told us the problem is starting to spread beyond infants, and beyond India. Dr. Clare is working with the Indian government to train doctors nationwide to reduce the number and strength of drugs prescribed. She says there will be a point where there will be infections that can't be treated.

"We are seeing infections which are getting more and more difficult to treat because we are failing with our usual antibiotics," said Dr. Clare.

India, with 26 million births annually is on the front lines of this battle. But it's a health threat the rest of the world could soon face.