Concerns about growing global antibiotic resistance have plunged into new depths as the World Health Organisation, WHO, is now warning that the world is running out of antibiotics.
There is not enough new antibiotics being developed, especially for the most concerning antibiotic-resistant infections, according to a WHO report released Tuesday.
Most of the drugs currently in the clinical pipeline are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics and are only short-term solutions.
The report found very few potential treatment options for those antibiotic-resistant infections identified by WHO as posing the greatest threat to health, including drug-resistant tuberculosis which kills around 250 000 people each year.
The United Nations health agency has aired its concerns about antibiotic resistance, which makes it more difficult to treat infections, for some time. Some of the group’s latest moves included updating guidelines for treating sexually transmitted infections and cautioning that just three antibiotics are being developed to treat gonorrhoea.
But the latest WHO report takes a broad and prospective look at antibiotic development.
“Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will seriously jeopardize progress in modern medicine”, says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.
“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 from minor surgery.”
Public health officials have long been concerned about antibiotic resistance, which occurs when bacteria mutate and become immune to a given antibiotic.
Overuse or incorrect use of antibiotics are key contributing factors, as is antibiotic use in animals that are then consumed by humans.
But drug development is lagging behind, especially for drug-resistant tuberculosis and other infections the WHO has designated as high priority, the report noted.
Of 51 new products in development for antibiotic-resistant infections, the WHO believes that only eight are innovative and add value to current options. And because drug development is a drawn-out process, most of its unsuccessful, current efforts could result in only about 10 new approvals in the next five years, the report said.
When contacted, the director of surveillance, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Olubunmi Ojo said she was not ”in the know about the report yet.”