New drugs urgently needed to fight superbugs: WHO
Feb.28, NY: The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that new antibiotics must be developed urgently to fight a dozen dangerous families of bacteria. The WHO also describes these "priority pathogens" as the greatest threat to human health.
Many of these bacteria have already evolved into deadly superbugs that are resistant to many antibiotics, the United Nations health agency said on Monday.
The bugs "have built-in abilities to find new ways to resist treatment" and can also pass on genetic material that allows other bacteria to become drug-resistant, it added.
Dr. Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, said even people with healthy immune systems are now vulnerable.
"It turns out that just about every country on the planet now has a problem with what we call AMR - antimicrobial resistance," Hotez told Al Jazeera.
"This is a real wake-up call that we have three superbugs that seem to be widely resistant to antibiotics and we're running out of tools to combat them."
The WHO's assistant director-general for health systems and innovation, Marie-Paule Kieny, said it was up to governments to put in place policies to boost investment in research and development if new drugs are to be found in time.
"Just when resistance to antibiotics is reaching alarming proportions, the pipeline is practically dry," she told reporters in a telephone briefing.
"If we leave it to market forces alone, the new antibiotics we most urgently need are not going to be developed in time."
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In recent decades, drug-resistant bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or Clostridium difficile, have become a global health threat. Superbug strains of infections such as tuberculosis and gonorrhea are already untreatable.
WHO has previously warned many antibiotics could become redundant this century, leaving patients exposed to deadly infections and threatening the future of medicine.
The "priority pathogens" list has three rankings - critical, high and medium - according to how urgently new antibiotics are needed.
The critical group includes multidrug-resistant bacteria that pose a particular threat in hospitals, nursing homes, and other care facilities.
These include Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and various Enterobacteriaceae that can cause often deadly infections such as pneumonia and septicemia.
The second and third tiers contain other increasingly drug-resistant bacteria that cause more common diseases such as gonorrhea and food poisoning caused by salmonella.
The Oslo Times International News Network