Drug-Resistant Bacteria Could Outpace New Medicines In Development, WHO Says

21 September 2017, 12:14 | Robert Harris

Too few antibiotics in pipeline to tackle global drug-resistance crisis, WHO warns

WHO: Antibiotic-Resistant Infections Are A “Global Health Emergency”

The WHO study found that new drugs in the clinical pipeline are modifications of existing medicines and are only short-term solutions.

"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", Dr. Mario Raviglione, director of the WHO Global Tuberculosis Program, said. Only 33 of the antibiotics target priority pathogens.

Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus said that antimicrobial resistance is a world health emergency that will seriously jeopardize progress in modern medicine.

To put the challenge facing pharmaceutical researchers into perspective, World Health Organization said that over the past 70 years, only two new antibiotics for treatment of drug-resistant TB have reached the market.

The impending problem puts millions of people at risk of life-threatening, debilitating and transmissible illnesses including multi-drug resistant tuberculosis which is on the rise and already kills some 250,000 people each year, according to the WHO.

The United Nations health agency has aired its concerns about antibiotic resistance, which makes it more hard to treat infections, for some time. An example of this drug-resistant tuberculosis, a disease for which no drug has yet been developed.

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Among the newly identified 51 new antibiotics and biologicals in clinical development, only eight are classed by World Health Organization as innovative treatments that will add value to the current antibiotic treatment arsenal, it said.

This means clinicians don't have enough treatment options for drug-resistant bacteria, including Acinetobacter and Enterobacteriaceae (such as Klebsiella and E.coli), which can cause severe and often deadly infections that pose a particular threat in hospitals and nursing homes.

There are also very few oral antibiotics in the pipeline, yet these are essential formulations for treating infections outside hospitals or in resource-limited settings, the report said.

As of now, the report titled, Antibacterial agents in clinical development, says about 51 new antibiotics are being developed to possibly treat antibiotic-resistant pathogens.

The agency also singled out gram-negative pathogens Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Acinetobacter baumannii and Enterobacteriaceae, including Klebsiella pneumoniae and Escherichia coli, as "the most critical priority for antibiotic research and development" because "strains are emerging worldwide that can not be treated with any of the antibiotics now on the market".

Last year, the United Nations raised the issue of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to crisis level, calling the situation "a fundamental, long-term threat to human health, sustainable food production, and development". And because drug development is a drawn-out process, most of it unsuccessful, current efforts could result in only about 10 new approvals in the next five years, the report said.



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