Will the World Run Out of Antibiotics?

The World Health Organization warnsthat we are falling farbehind in the search for new antibiotics to replace those that have been rendered ineffective due to drug resistance.

This news comes as part of the WHO’s recentreport, entitled “Antibacterial agents in clinical development — an analysis of the antibacterial clinical development pipeline, including tuberculosis.”

Authored by some of the world’s leading physicians, microbiologists and drug development experts, the report argues that many antibiotics currently under development aren’t actually new at all. That’s because the 10 or so workable treatments in question areslightly altered versions of preexistingantibiotics classes. They could still prove effective — but only for a short amount of time.

Sowhat happens when those treatments stop working?

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, explains:

Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will seriously jeopardize progress in modern medicine. 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.

Staying ahead of the health emergency

Antibiotic resistanceremains a growing concern around the world. Whileantibiotics were once a mainstay of treating potentiallydeadly and disfiguring infections, we have now used these drugsso widely that the targeted pathogens have developed immunity to our best defenses.

That means that doctorsmustrely on older — and, oftentimes, more damaging — antibiotics. But, as recent research has shown, even these antibiotics are starting to fail as resistance grows.

That’s why scientists have been looking to novel places for antibiotics, from our own bodies to the soil beneath our feet. And these efforts are yielding success with the potential forseveral new sources of antibiotics.

As the World Health Organization notes, though,we need to focus on innovative treatments in the short term to avoid a resurgence of harmful diseasewhen our effective antibiotics stocks are low.

Diseases likedrug-resistant tuberculosis and infections likeE.coli and MRSA–the latter of which can cause severe and oftentimes deadly infections in hospitals and places like nursing homes — are all major threats as antibiotics resistance increases.

WHO’s new report identifies 51 new antibiotic treatments that could target these so-called priority resistant pathogens. However, when researchers examinedthe candidate treatments, they found that only eight meet the necessary criteria. The rest rely on existing pathways that will have limited value for treatment within a very short periodof time.

In particular, the World Health Organization is concerned that few options exist for multi-drug resistant pathogens. The report also raises concerns that, of the viable treatments in development, only a few will be oral antibiotics.

Orally-administered antibiotics are a crucial tool for fighting infection outside of hospital settings, and they are particularly important for treating people in remote areas or places where access to healthcare is limited.

WHO has also identified 12 classes of pathogens, including pneumonia and urinary tract infections, that are becoming resistant to antibiotics and turning what are currently highly treatable problems into major health concerns. Few of the drugs in development are actually capable of targeting more than one of these pathogens, and even fewer still have multi-use potential for most or all of the identified pathogens — and that’s a significant problem.

Multi-use is importantbecause doctors are sometimes faced with patients who have escalating infections with an unknown cause. Being able to employ a multi-use antibiotic can, therefore, allowdoctors toact swiftly to combat infections even when they aren’t sure exactly whatthey are fighting. And, in some cases, this can mean the difference between life and death.

A future without this important tool would mean a greater likelihood of severe health complications and a greater number of fatalities.

Encouragingly, researchers highlighted amulti-use treatment in development that appearshighly promising. The drug known ascefiderocolhas a novel way of penetrating infections like E.coli and destroying them.Tests show cefiderocolto be highly effective in lab conditions. It is still some way from being available widely on the market, but of the many candidate treatments in development, itappears to have the most potential.

The report notes that the development of new antibiotics alone will not be enough to combat growing drug resistance, however. WHO is calling on international governments to explore how we can prevent infections in the first place — for example, through improving sanitation and cleanliness in developing nations — and how we can control and prevent the unnecessary use of antibiotics in sectors like factory farming.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

38 comments

heather g
heather gabout a month ago

I'm familiar with this subject and it reminds me of the reason fisherman have difficulty landing tons of fish as they did in the past. Our actions need to be more mindful.

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Peggy B
Peggy B2 months ago

Noted

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Toni W
Toni W2 months ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni W2 months ago

TYFS

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Janet B
Janet B2 months ago

Thanks

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Mary B
Mary B2 months ago

This is an old conversation . Instead of trying to kill bacteria and viruses we must come to realize microbes are what make up the life of everything, so they must be respected, have their colonies with the body kept in balance, as well as have the host body kept in balance with it's microbes. The many ways to do this are already known. But you have to get out of the mainstream mindset that makes everything about fighting and killing and wars on opposets . Look in to Homeopathic remedies, herbal support for weak immune systems and frayed nerves. You might also want to check out the latest research on Alzheimer's. Many cases have turned out to be overloads of prescription drugs. Once weaned off those, people's memories and cognitive abilities come back. Killing the very things that make up the building blocks of life is utter stupidity, and when sick people get better it is a testament to the incredible strength and desire for life of our own bodies microbes. But when people finally start using this info guess what will happen to the Medical,Pharma,Health Insurance industry, full of caring well meaning individuals who have been educated by the current prevailing world view. We can and MUST do better.

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Marion Friedl
Marion Friedl2 months ago

Anne Moran, whenever I get antibiotics (only if I really need them) I get diarrhea for days because the intestine flora´s destroyed!!! But since I gotta take cortisone due to Lupus and other auto immune diseases my immune system´s down, so if I really have some bacterial infection (which´s been prooved by bloodwork or by a smear test from my throat f. ex. my body needs antibiotics as support, won´t be able to fight against the infection itself....

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Marion Friedl
Marion Friedl2 months ago

The "livestock" industry uses so many antibiotics that most of the bacteries´re resistant in the meantime, plus many docs prescribe antibiotics against everything, also against a flu or against a cold, those´re normally caused by virusses, so antibiotics don´t help anyway, they´re only necessary for so-called super-infections, which means you have an additional bacterial infection!!! 🤬🤬🤬

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Cindy M. D
Cindy M. D2 months ago

Bacteria are capable of changing. It is important to have a strong immune system. This way we can protect ourselves from these bacteria and not depend on Big Pharma and their price gouging.

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Telica R
Telica R2 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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