Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tripoli, Tripoli, Libya.
Resistance to antimicrobial agents is a major health problem that affects the whole world. Providing information on the past state of antimicrobial resistance in Libya may assist the health authorities in addressing the problem more effectively in the future. Information was obtained mainly from Highwire Press (including PubMed) search for the period 1970-2011 using the terms 'antibiotic resistance in Libya', 'antimicrobial resistance in Libya', 'tuberculosis in Libya', and 'primary and acquired resistance in Libya' in title and abstract. From 1970 to 2011 little data was available on antimicrobial resistance in Libya due to lack of surveillance and few published studies. Available data shows high resistance rates for Salmonella species in the late 1970s and has remained high to the present day. High prevalence rates (54-68%) of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) were reported in the last decade among S. aureus from patients with burns and surgical wound infections. No reports were found of vancomycin-resistant S. aureus (VRSA) or vancomycin-intermediate-resistant S. aureus (VISA) using standard methods from Libya up to the end of 2011. Reported rates of primary (i.e. new cases) and acquired (i.e. retreatment cases) multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) from the eastern region of Libya in 1971 were 16.6 and 33.3% and in 1976 were 8.6 and 14.7%, in western regions in 1984-1986 were 11 and 21.5% and in the whole country in 2011 were estimated at 3.4 and 29%, respectively. The problem of antibiotic resistance is very serious in Libya. The health authorities in particular and society in general should address this problem urgently. Establishing monitoring systems based on the routine testing of antimicrobial sensitivity and education of healthcare workers, pharmacists, and the community on the health risks associated with the problem and benefits of prudent use of antimicrobials are some steps that can be taken to tackle the problem in the future.