While reports of deadly “superbugs” and drug-resistant infections make headlines with increasing frequency, few countries have mapped out plans to combat antibiotic resistance, the phenomenon at the heart of these threats to human health and lives. According to a report released Wednesday by the World Health Organization, just a quarter of countries surveyed had comprehensive strategies to reduce antibiotic resistance and preserve the effectiveness of modern medicines.

“This is the single greatest challenge in infectious diseases today,” Dr. Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general for health security at the WHO, said in a statement. In April 2014, the organization released its first global report on antibiotic resistance, which it described as “a problem so serious that it threatens the achievements of modern medicine” and could lead to a “post-antibiotic era — in which common infections and minor injuries can kill.”

When antibiotics are not used properly, infection-causing bacteria can develop resistance to them, making these crucial drugs less effective against pathogens, if they work at all. Other microorganisms, including viruses and parasites, are also becoming more resistant to drugs to treat them, Wednesday’s report noted.

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