The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a list of 12 treatment-resistant bacteria that it says researchers urgently need to develop new antibiotics for.
It drew up the list of priority pathogens, including some that cause pneumonia, to try to spur research and development into new antibiotics. WHO noted the hazard posed by gram-negative bacteria that have become resistant to multiple antimicrobial drugs.
Gram-negative bacteria have evolved to find new ways to ward off antibiotics. They can also pass along genetic material that allow other bacteria to become drug-resistant.
“This list is a new tool to ensure R&D responds to urgent public health needs,” Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO’s assistant director for health systems and innovation, said in a news release. “Antibiotic resistance is growing, and we are fast running out of treatment options. If we leave it to market forces alone, the new antibiotics we most urgently need are not going to be developed in time.”
WHO’s list is divided into critical, high-priority, and medium-priority needs for new antibiotics.
The most critical group includes the multidrug-resistant bacteria Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas, and various Enterobacteriaceae, which can cause pneumonia and bloodstream infections. They pose a threat to hospitals and patients who require blood catheters and ventilators in their treatment.
These bacteria are now resistant to most antimicrobials, such as carbapenems and third-generation cephalosporins.
The high- and medium-priority categories include bacteria that cause more common diseases, such as gonorrhea and food poisoning. Salmonella is the food-poisoning threat.
Health specialists from the Group of Twenty nations are meeting in Berlin this week to discuss therapy-resistant bacteria and other issues.
“We need effective antibiotics for our health systems.” said Hermann Gröhe, Germany’s health minister. “We have to take joint action today for a healthier tomorrow. Therefore, we will discuss and bring the attention of the G20 to the fight against antimicrobial resistance. WHO’s first global priority pathogen list is an important new tool to secure and guide research and development related to new antibiotics.”
WHO hopes the list prods governments to create policies that advance basic science and R&D strategies that lead to new antibiotics. WHO’s efforts include the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) Global Antibiotic R&D Partnership, which engages in not-for-profit development of new antibiotics.
Tuberculosis is not on the biggest-threats list because it is being targeted by other WHO programs. Chlamydia and Streptococcus A and B were not included because they have low resistance to current treatments.
The list was created in partnership with the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Tübingen in Germany. The criteria scientists used to draw up the list included how lethal the various bacteria-spawned infections are, the availability of antibiotics to treat the bacteria, and the pathogens’ resistance to therapies.
“New antibiotics targeting this priority list of pathogens will help to reduce deaths due to resistant infections around the world,” said Evelina Tacconelli, who heads the University of Tübingen’s Division of Infectious Diseases and played a key role in the development of the list. “Waiting any longer will cause further public health problems and dramatically impact on patient care.”
The complete WHO list can be found here.