The World Health Organization warned Monday that antibiotic consumption is dangerously high in some countries, while a lack of others causes risky addiction, leading to fatal suicide infections.
In a first, the United Nations Health Authority stated that it had collected data on antibiotic use over many parts of the world and found major differences in consumption.
The report, based on 2015 data from 65 countries and regions, showed a significant difference in consumption rates from as low as about four so-called defined daily doses (DDD) per 1,000 inhabitants per day in Burundi to over 64 in Mongolia.
"The big difference in antibiotic use across the globe indicates that some countries are likely to exaggerate antibiotics while other countries may not have sufficient access to these life-saving drugs," the WHO warned in a statement.
Discovered in the 1920s, antibiotics have saved tens of millions of lives by defeating bacterial diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and meningitis.
But for decades, bacteria have learned to fight back, building resistance to the same drugs that once surprised in a reliable way.
WHO has repeatedly warned that the world is running out of effective antibiotics, and last year, governments and major drugs called for a new generation of drugs to fight ultra-resistant supergerms.
"Overuse and abuse of antibiotics are the main causes of antimicrobial resistance," said Suzanne Hill, director of WHO's major drug unit, in a statement.
"Without effective antibiotics and other antimicrobials, we will lose our ability to treat common infections like pneumonia," she warned.
Bacteria can become resistant when patients use antibiotics that they do not need or do not end a treatment period, giving half-defeated insects a chance to recover and build immunity.
Hill insisted that the results "confirm the need to take urgent action, such as applying principles for prescription measures, to reduce unnecessary use of antibiotics."
While overuse of antibiotics is worrying, WHO said that low numbers were worrying.
"Resistance can occur when people can not afford complete treatment or only have access to substandard or counterfeit medicine," said it.
The WHO report showed major differences in antibiotic consumption, even within regions.
In Europe, which provided the most complete data for the report, the average antibiotic consumption was almost 18 DDD per 1,000 inhabitants per day.
However, within the region, Turkey, ranking more than 38 DDD, showed almost five times higher consumption than the lowest consumer country in Azerbaijan, which counted less than eight DDD.
WHO acknowledged the picture of how antibiotics are used around the world far from complete.
For example, Monday's overview includes only four countries in Africa, three in the Middle East and six in Asia Pacific. In particular, missing from the chart is the United States, China and India.
The WHO stressed that many countries face major challenges in gathering reliable data, including lack of money and trained staff.
Since 2016, the U.S.A. has supported data collection in 57 low and middle income countries in an attempt to establish a standardized system for monitoring antibiotic use.
"Reliable data on antibiotic consumption are important for helping countries raise awareness of appropriate antimicrobial use," said WHO.