WHO warns that lack of new antibiotic drug development is threatening the fight against drug-resistant bacteria

“The threat of antimicrobial resistance has never been more immediate and the need for solutions more urgent.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) believe that the world is moving towards a period in which common infections may become fatal again. Almost 70,000 people die each year in the EU and US from antibiotic-resistant infections.

Two new reports published by the WHO reveal a frail drug development pipeline for antibiotics. Currently, the products in development bring little benefit over existing treatments and fail to target the most resistant Gram-negative bacteria.

Research and development is now primarily conducted by small or medium enterprises (SME). Larger pharmaceutical companies are exiting the field. Declining private investment and lack of innovation in new antibiotic development have been cited as undermining factors.

Only 50 antibiotics are currently in the clinical development pipeline. However, every cloud has a silver lining. The pre-clinical pipeline shows more innovation and diversity, with 252 products under investigation. These product are still in very early stages of development and their efficacy and safety still needs to be proven. WHO predicts that only 2 – 5 of these would become available to patients in the next 10 years.

The Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) hope to provide 5 new treatments by 2025, by accelerating the research and development of new and improved antibiotics. Although, it must be noted that new treatments alone will not be enough to combat the threat of antimicrobial resistance. Infection prevention, control and appropriate use of current treatments are also key players in tackling this burden.

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