WHO warns of a “silent pandemic” caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria

A new analysis by the World Health Organization warns of a “silent pandemic” caused by drug-resistant bacteria due to a lack of new antibiotics on the market and which is killing thousands of people worldwide.

according to a release Ahead of the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, taking place online from April 15-18 in Copenhagen, Denmark, only 12 new antibiotics entered the market between 2017 and 2021.

In addition, he points out that currently only 27 drugs are being tested against germs considered serious by the entity, of which only six are considered “innovative” enough to overcome antibiotic resistance.

Only four of the 27 antibiotic drugs have new mechanisms of action and most of them are not new drug classes but evolutions of existing antibiotic classes.“, said Valeria Gigante, leader of the WHO Antimicrobial Resistance Division.

“Silent pandemic and the end of the world scenario”

About 5 million deaths a year are associated with antibiotic resistance, mostly affecting poor people who have less access to superior drugs that can work when first-line drugs fail, according to the report.

Faced with this situation of a kind of “silent pandemic”, medical specialists call for the reinforcement of the development of new accessible medicines. In addition, they warn of a “end of the world scenario” in which antibiotics may eventually stop being effective and countless numbers of people may die from infections that were once simple and treatable.

“The rapid increase in multidrug-resistant infections worldwide is concerning. We are running out of time to bring new antibiotics to market to combat this threat. Without immediate action, we risk returning to an era before antibiotics, when common infections were deadly,” said Gigante.

poorly funded research

Antimicrobials are mostly short-term treatments, so they’re not as lucrative a prospect as other treatments for pharmaceutical companies.

What’s more, they’re just as likely to fail during the research and development process as any other drug, but they offer a lower revenue return compared to, say, cancer and heart drugs. This results in a challenging and underfunded research process.

In many cases, resistance to these drugs develops because people do not complete their course of antibiotics, they were prescribed incorrectly, or they were misused, as in some countries they are widely used over-the-counter.


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