Alert over shortage of new drugs for ‘world’s most dangerous bacteria’

A lack of new treatments for common infections has left people dangerously exposed to the “world’s most dangerous bacteria”, the UN health agency said on Thursday. The alert from the World Health Organization (WHO) is delivered in a report showing that none of the 43 antibiotics in development today sufficiently addresses the growing threat posed by 13 priority drug-resistant bacteria.

Those most at risk are young children and those living in poverty, but antibiotic-resistant infections can affect anyone, said WHO partner AMR. According to WHO, three in 10 newborns who develop blood infections die, because the antibiotics that are used to treat sepsis are no longer effective. Bacterial pneumonia – another preventable illness which has developed resistance to available drugs – is also a major cause of childhood mortality among under-fives.

WHO’s annual Antibacterial Pipeline Report, notes that almost all antibiotics available today are variations of those discovered by the 1980s. We rely hugely on them in all areas of our lives, from having a tooth out at the dentist, to organ transplants and cancer chemotherapy. But after reviewing antibiotics that are in the clinical stages of testing, as well as those in development, the report highlighted a “near static pipeline” of production, which WHO’s Haileyesus Getahun likened to the “Achilles heel” of global health security.

Only a few drugs have been given early-stage approval by regulators in recent years “and most of these agents…offer limited clinical benefit over existing treatments, WHO said, with the warning that the “rapid emergence of drug-resistance to these new agents” was a certainty. This was despite the fact that “some promising products” were in different stages of development, as only a fraction of these will make it to market in a sector hampered by the small return on investment from successful antibiotic products, which has limited the interest of most large pharmaceutical companies.

Source: The UN

Author: Raisa Pajarinen