The World Health Organization released a list of twelve kinds of bacteria the organization deemed "priorities" in need of new antibiotics - the first time they have done so. While the World Health Organization said that research leading to new treatment options is "vital", it added that "better prevention of infections and appropriate use of existing antibiotics in humans and animals", were also essential to slowing the spread of antibiotic-resistant microbes.
The list divides the 12 families of bacteria into three categories based on the urgency of the need for developing new antibiotics. The most critical group includes multidrug-resistant bacteria that pose a particular threat in hospitals, nursing homes and among patients whose care requires devices such as ventilators and blood catheters. Left off of the list was tuberculosis--whose resistance has been growing in recent years--because it is targeted by other programs.
The WHO also point out that new drugs on their own will not solve the problem of antimicrobial resistance. The most unsafe strains have recently acquired resistance to a class of antibiotics called carbapenems, the only group that still killed them effectively. It will provide guidance to new R&D initiatives such as the WHO/Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) Global Antibiotic R&D Partnership, which is engaging in the not-for-profit development of new antibiotics.
"Improved diagnostics - ones that are fast, easy to use in field settings, and that can determine what infections are bacterial, identify what bacteria they are, and assess whether they are resistant to certain drugs - are crucial to reducing inappropriate antibiotic use in the first place", according to the MSF statement. That's just one percent of the infections resistant to antibiotics, but the eight-year span of the study, published this month in the Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, reveals a shocking trend. "Efforts to control this trend are urgently needed from all of us, such as using antibiotics only when necessary, and eliminating agricultural use of antibiotics in healthy animals".
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"New antibiotics targeting this priority list of pathogens will help to reduce deaths due to resistance infections around the world", said Professor Evelina Tacconelli, head of the division of infectious disease at the University of Tübingen and a major contributor to the development of the list.
Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are a scary enough threat in adults, but like monsters under the bed, they're oftentimes more threatening to kids.
Experts drew up the list by looking at the current level of drug resistance, global death rates, prevalence of the infections in communities and the burden the diseases cause on health systems.
At the top of the list included "Gram Negative" bacteria including Aciento baumannii and Pseudomonas aeruginosin, which are linked to hospital infections, where medical equipment has the propensity of becoming contaminated. She also highlighted the fact that antibiotics are typically used as short-term treatment, not long-term, meaning they have less market incentives to pharmaceutical companies. He said the list would be an important tool to steer research. They didn't include some very unsafe bacteria for which there are already specialized programs in place - such is the case of drug-resistant tuberculosis. It's getting harder to treat people for drug-resistant infections in the resource-limited settings in which we work.