LONDON Feb 27 New antibiotics need to be
developed urgently to combat 12 families of bacteria, the World
Health Organization said on Monday, describing these "priority
pathogens" as the greatest threats to human health.
The United National health agency said many of these
bacteria have already evolved into deadly superbugs that are
resistant to many antibiotics.
The bugs "have built-in abilities to find new ways to resist
treatment" the WHO said, and can also pass on genetic material
that allows other bacteria to become drug-resistant.
Governments need to invest in research and development
(R&D)if new drugs are to be found in time, because market forces
cannot be relied upon to boost the funds needed to fight the
bugs, it said.
"Antibiotic resistance is growing, and we are fast running
out of treatment options," the WHO's assistant director-general
for health systems and innovation, Marie-Paule Kieny, said.
"If we leave it to market forces alone, the new antibiotics
we most urgently need are not going to be developed in time."
In recent decades, drug-resistant bacteria, such as
Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) or Clostridium difficile, have
become a global health threat, while superbug strains of
infections such as tuberculosis and gonorrhoea are now
The WHO has previously warned that many antibiotics could
become totally redundant this century, leaving patients exposed
to deadly infections and threatening the future of medicine.
The "priority pathogens" list published by the WHO on Monday
has three rankings - critical, high and medium - according to
how urgently new antibiotics are needed.
The critical group includes multidrug-resistant bacteria
that pose a particular threat in hospitals, nursing homes, and
other care facilities. These include Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas
and various Enterobacteriaceae that can cause severe and often
deadly infections such as pneumonia and septicaemia.
The second and third tiers contain other increasingly
drug-resistant bacteria that cause more common diseases such as
gonorrhoea and food poisoning caused by salmonella.
The WHO said the list is intended to spur governments to put
in place policies that incentivise basic and advanced R&D.
(Editing by Louise Ireland)