A report, antibacterial agents in clinical development launched by World Health Organisation (WHO) today stresses on a serious concern of lack of new antibiotics under development to fight the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance. Most of the drugs currently in the clinical pipeline are just the alteration of existing classes of antibiotics and provide the short-term solutions to diseases.The report found very few potential treatment options for those antibiotic-resistant infections identified by WHO as greatest threat to health, which includes drug-resistant tuberculosis. Drug-resistant tuberculosis kills around 250,000 people every year.
"Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will seriously jeopardize progress in modern medicine," says Dr 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."
In addition to multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, WHO has identified 12 classes of priority pathogens, some of them causing common infections like pneumonia or UTI. They are increasingly drug resistant and urgently in need of new treatments.
The report also found 51 new antibiotics and biologicals in clinical development to treat priority antibiotic-resistant bacteria, as well as TB and the sometimes deadly diarrhoeal infection Clostridium difficile.
Among these medicines, only 8 are classified by WHO as innovative treatments which will add value to current antibiotic treatment arsenal. There is a serious lack of treatment options for multidrug and extensively drug resistant M. tuberculosis and gram-negative pathogens,
including Acinetobacter and Enterobacteriaceae (such as Klebsiella and E.coli) which can cause severe and often deadly infections that pose a particular threat in hospitals and nursing homes.
There is also lesser number of oral antibiotics in the pipeline, yet these are essential formulations for treating infections outside hospitals or a resource-limited setting.
"Pharmaceutical companies and researchers must urgently focus on new antibiotics against certain types of extremely serious infections that can kill patients in a matter of days because we have no line of defence," says Dr Suzanne Hill, Director of the Department of Essential Medicines at WHO.
To counter this threat, WHO and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) set up the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (known as GARDP). On 4 September 2017, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, South Africa, Switzerland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Wellcome Trust pledged more than €56 million for this work.
"Research for tuberculosis is seriously underfunded, with only two new antibiotics for treatment of drug-resistant tuberculosis having reached the market in over 70 years," says Dr Mario Raviglione, Director of the WHO Global Tuberculosis Programme. "If we are to end tuberculosis, more than US$ 800 million per year is urgently needed to fund research for new antituberculosis medicines".
New treatments will not be sufficient to fight the threat of antimicrobial resistance. WHO works with countries and partners to improve the methods of prevention and control of diseases and to promote better use of existing and future antibiotics. WHO is also working in guidance for the judicial use of antibiotics in human, animal and agriculture.