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Lack of antibiotics threatens global health

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Jan. 27, 2020 2 min read

2 min read

MASERU - Declining private investment and lack of innovation in the development of new antibiotics are undermining efforts to combat drug-resistant infections, the World Health Organisation (WHO) says.

According to the body, two new reports reveal a weak pipeline for antibiotic agents and that the 60 products in development including 50 antibiotics and 10 biologics bring little benefit over existing treatments and few target the most critical resistant bacteria.
It states while pre-clinical candidates in early-stage testing are more innovative, it will take years before they reach patients.
Director-General of WHO Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says never has the threat of antimicrobial resistance been more immediate and the need for solutions more urgent.

He said numerous initiatives are underway to reduce resistance, but there is also a need for countries and the pharmaceutical industry to step up and contribute with sustainable funding and innovative new medicines.
The report on antibacterial agents in clinical development which is an analysis of the antibacterial clinical development pipeline and its companion publication, antibacterial agents in preclinical development, also found that research and development for antibiotics is primarily driven by small or medium-sized enterprises with large pharmaceutical companies continuing to exit the field.


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WHO in 2017 meanwhile published the priority pathogens list, 12 classes of bacteria plus tuberculosis that are posing increasing risk to human health because they are resistant to most existing treatments.

The list was developed by a WHO-led group of independent experts to encourage the medical research community to develop innovative treatments for these resistant bacteria.
Of the 50 antibiotics in the pipeline, 32 target WHO priority pathogens but the majority reportedly have only limited benefits when compared to existing antibiotics.

Two of these are said to be active against the multi-drug resistant Gram-negative bacteria, which are spreading rapidly and require urgent solutions.

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