Is the world going to run out of antibiotics?

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In a new report, released today by the WHO, serious concerns have been raised over the lack of new antibiotics currently in clinical development to tackle the growing issue of antimicrobial resistance.

The report, entitled ‘Antibacterial agents in clinical development – an analysis of the antibacterial clinical development pipeline, including tuberculosis’, indicates that most of the drugs currently in the development pipeline are modifications of existing compounds, and will therefore not provide a long-term solution. In addition, the report highlights that there are very few possible treatment options for infections such as drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB), which pose the greatest threats to global health.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO, commented: “Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will seriously jeopardize progress in modern medicine. There is an urgent need for more investment in research and development for antibiotic-resistant infections including TB, otherwise we will be forced back to a time when people feared common infections and risked their lives from minor surgery.”

The WHO has previously identified 12 ‘priority pathogens’ in urgent need of new treatments and in this report they identify 51 new antibiotics and biologicals in clinical development to treat these, TB and Clostridium difficile.

However, from the total of 51 products, only eight are classed by the WHO as innovative treatments, moreover, there very few oral antibiotics in the pipeline, despite these being essential for treating infections in resource-limited areas or outside of clinical settings.

In response to the insubstantial development pipeline the WHO, along with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (Geneva, Switzerland), have recently set up the ‘Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership’, which has received monetary pledges from governments worldwide to boost the discovery of new treatments. However, new treatments alone will not be sufficient to tackle antimicrobial resistance, and the WHO is simultaneously working on improving facets such as infection prevention and control and responsible use of existing antibiotics.

Suzanne Hill, Director of the Department of Essential Medicines at WHO, concluded by calling for action in wake of the recent report: “Pharmaceutical companies and researchers must urgently focus on new antibiotics against certain types of extremely serious infections that can kill patients in a matter of days because we have no line of defence.”

Source: www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2017/running-out-antibiotics/en/

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