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World running out of antibiotics, WHO report confirms

A new report launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows a serious lack of new antibiotics under development to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance.

According to the report, “most of the drugs currently in the clinical pipeline are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics and are only short-term solutions.” The report has found very few potential treatment options for those antibiotic-resistant infections identified by WHO, as posing the greatest threat to health, including drug-resistant Tuberculosis (TB) which kills around 250,000 people each year.

Titled ‘Antibacterial agents in clinical development — an analysis of the antibacterial clinical development pipeline, including tuberculosis,’ the report talks about a serious lack of treatment options for multidrug- and extensively drug-resistant M. tuberculosis and gram-negative pathogens, which can cause severe and often deadly infections. There are also very few oral antibiotics in the pipeline, the report adds.

In addition to multidrug-resistant TB, WHO has identified 12 classes of priority pathogens — some of them, causing common infections such as pneumonia or urinary tract infections—that are increasingly resistant to existing antibiotics and urgently in need of new treatments.

The report identifies 51 new antibiotics and biologicals in clinical development to treat priority antibiotic-resistant pathogens, as well as tuberculosis and the sometimes deadly diarrhoeal infection Clostridium Difficile. Among all these candidate medicines, however, only 8 are classed by WHO as innovative treatments that will add value to the current antibiotic treatment arsenal.

“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,” says Dr Suzanne Hill, Director of the Department of Essential Medicines at WHO.

“Research for tuberculosis is seriously underfunded, with only two new antibiotics for treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis having reached the market in over 70 years,” says Dr. Mario Raviglione, Director of the WHO Global Tuberculosis Programme. “If we are to end tuberculosis, more than US$ 800 million per year is urgently needed to fund research for new antituberculosis medicines.”

New treatments alone, however, will not be sufficient to combat the threat of antimicrobial resistance. WHO works with countries and partners to improve infection prevention and control and to foster appropriate use of existing and future antibiotics. It is also developing guidance for the responsible use of antibiotics in the human, animal and agricultural sectors.

Maqbool, Shahina. World running out of antibiotics, WHO report confirms. The News, September 25, 2017.

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