The world Health Organisation released a report titled ‘Antibacterial agents in clinical development – an analysis of the antibacterial clinical development pipeline, including tuberculosis’. The report shows a serious lack of new antibiotics under development to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance. Most of the drugs currently in the clinical pipeline are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics and are only short-term solutions. There are very few potential treatment options for those antibiotic-resistant infections identified by WHO as posing the greatest threat to health, including drug-resistant tuberculosis which kills around 250 000 people each year.
WHO has identified 12 classes of priority pathogens. Some of them cause common infections such as pneumonia or urinary tract infections that are increasingly resistant to existing antibiotics and urgently in need of new treatments.
The report identifies 51 new antibiotics and biologicals in clinical development to treat priority antibiotic-resistant pathogens, as well as tuberculosis and the sometimes deadly diarrhoeal infection Clostridium difficile. Among all these candidate medicines, however, only 8 are classed by WHO as innovative treatments that will add value to the current antibiotic treatment arsenal.
There are also very few oral antibiotics in the pipeline, yet these are essential formulations for treating infections outside hospitals. New treatments alone, however, will not be sufficient to combat the threat of antimicrobial resistance. WHO works with countries and partners to improve infection prevention and control and to foster appropriate use of existing and future antibiotics. WHO is also developing guidance for the responsible use of antibiotics in the human, animal and agricultural sectors.