Disarming pathogens: benefits and challenges of antimicrobials that target bacterial virulence instead of growth and viability

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Currently, antibiotics are failing fast while rates of drug-resistant bacteria are increasing worldwide. With almost no new drugs coming to market and with even last-resort antibiotics like colistin becoming ineffective [1], a global scale public health crisis appears unavoidable. In fact, WHO has declared that with no action “a post-antibiotic era – in which common infections and minor injuries can kill – far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st century” [2]. With more annual deaths predicted by 2050 from antibiotic-resistant infections than cancer [3], we urgently need effective alternatives to combat this crisis. This has resulted in a resurgence of research activity into various alternative antibacterial approaches, which are at various stages of clinical and preclinical development. Given continued funding and appropriate investment by industry and governments, these alternatives could deliver much-needed antimicrobials for clinical use in the immediate future [4].

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