The world is running out of antibiotics, WHO report confirms

Category: Africa/International 87

A World Health Organisation (WHO) report launched on Wednesday shows a decline in the production of new antibiotics to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance.

The report, “Antibacterial agents in clinical development – an analysis of the antibacterial clinical development pipeline, including tuberculosis,” was made available to the Ghana News Agency.

It said most of the drugs currently in the clinical pipeline were modifications of existing classes of antibiotics and were only short-term solutions.

The report 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 which kills around 250,000 people each year.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Director-General of WHO said “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.”

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

The report identified 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.

It added that among these candidate medicines, however, only eight were classed by WHO as innovative treatments that would add value to the current antibiotic treatment arsenal.

There is a serious lack of treatment options for multidrug- and extensively drug-resistant M. tuberculosis and gram-negative pathogens, 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.

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

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

To counter this threat, WHO and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) set up the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (known as GARDP)

and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Wellcome Trust pledged more than €56 million for this work.

“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.

WHO is also developing guidance for the responsible use of antibiotics in human, animal and agricultural sectors.

Source: GNA

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