The world is running out of antibiotics, WHO report warns


"Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will seriously jeopardize progress in modern medicine", WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said in a statement.

"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 for minor surgery".

"This is the most comprehensive survey in existence on the clinical development pipeline", Kevin Outterson, LLM, JD, executive director of CARB-X (the Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator), told CIDRAP News.

Most drugs now in the pipeline are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics and are only short-term solutions, the report found.

A new report today from the World Health Organization (WHO) argues that the antibiotics now in clinical development are not sufficient to counter rising antimicrobial resistance (AMR), particularly in the pathogens that present the greatest threat to human health.

"The idea is that biologicals could replace use of antibiotics, which could help in overcoming the resistance problem", Peter Beyer, an author of the report and senior adviser to the WHO's Department of Essential Medicines and Health Products, wrote in an email.

And for drug-resistant diseases that should be high priority, there aren't enough oral antibiotics, which are used to treat infections outside of a medical setting or in places where resources are limited, the agency said.

Cases are increasingly reported in which no existing drug works.

The WHO previously drew up a list of antibiotic-resistant infections posing the greatest threat to health.

Among these medicines, only 8 are classified by World Health Organization as innovative treatments which will add value to current antibiotic treatment arsenal.

Earlier this month the Government and the British research charity the Wellcome Trust joined Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland to pledge more than €56 million to the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership.

Among them is drug resistant Tuberculosis, which kills a quarter of a million people a year, as well as bacteria that cause common infections like pneumonia or urinary tract infections. "If we are to end TB, more than $800m per year is urgently needed to fund research".

Apparently, this number of potential new drugs should be sufficient yet it is not almost enough. "But now, a year on from a major United Nations agreement, we must see concerted action - to reinvigorate the antibiotic pipeline, ensure responsible use of existing antibiotics, and address this threat across human, animal and environmental health". It is also developing guidance for the responsible use of antibiotics in the human, animal and agricultural sectors.