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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

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

persistent failure to develop, manufacture, and distribute
effective new antibiotics is further fuelling the impact of
antimicrobial resistance and threatens our ability to
successfully treat bacterial infections,” said Dr. Hanan
Balkhy, WHO Assistant Director General on antimicrobial

Those most at risk are young children and
those living in poverty, but antibiotic-resistant infections
can affect anyone, said WHO partner AMR.

at risk

According to WHO, three in 10 newborns who
develop blood infections die, because the antibiotics that
are used to treat sepsis are no longer

Bacterial pneumonia – another preventable
illness which has developed resistance to available drugs
– is also a major cause of childhood mortality among

WHO’s annual Antibacterial
Pipeline Report
, notes that almost all antibiotics
available today are variations of those discovered by the

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

“Opportunities emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic
must be seized to bring to the forefront the needs for
sustainable investments in research and development of new
and effective antibiotics,” said Mr. Getahun, WHO Director
of Antimicrobial Resistance Global Coordination.

need a global sustained effort including mechanisms for
pooled funding and new and additional investments to meet
the magnitude of the antimicrobial threat.”

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

The clinical pipeline
and recently approved antibiotics are insufficient to tackle
the challenge —


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

“Overall, the clinical pipeline and
recently approved antibiotics are insufficient to tackle the
challenge of increasing emergence and spread of
antimicrobial resistance,” the UN agency

Driving research

To promote
investment in antibiotics development, WHO and partner Drugs
for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi)
have set up the Global Antibiotic R&D Partnership (GARDP) to develop
innovative treatments.

The UN health agency has also
been working closely with other non-profit funding partners
such as the CARB-X to accelerate
antibacterial research.

Another important new
WHO-partnered initiative is the AMR Action Fund, that
was set up by pharmaceutical companies, philanthropists and
the European Investment Bank; its aim is to strengthen and
accelerate antibiotic development through pooled

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