The World Could Be Running Out Of Antibiotics

A ‘global health emergency’

The World Could Be Running Out Of Antibiotics Image: Pixabay

The World Health Organization warns greater development of new antibiotics is needed amid fears the current rates of new drug development could be overtaken by drug-resistant infections.

A new report published by WHO on Tuesday found most of the current cycle of drugs in development provide only short-term band aid solutions, with report author and Director-General of WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus calling drug resistance a “global health emergency”.

"Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will seriously jeopardise progress in modern medicine," he said.

"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."

Of the 51 antibiotics and biologicals in development, WHO say only eight are believed to have any significant value to the current drugs on offer.

The report found the most drug-resistant infections to be tuberculosis, which kills around 250,000 people a year, alongside other pathogens such as E-coli.

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.

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.

"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.

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).