WHO: The world needs new antibiotics

The World Health Organisation has confirmed in a report that there’s a lack of new antibiotics under development.

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CAPE TOWN – The World Health Organisation (WHO) says there are not enough new antibiotics being developed to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of a microorganism, such as bacteria or viruses, to prevent antibiotics from working against it.

This means that standard treatments become ineffective, infections persist and may spread to others.

In its report, WHO says that most drugs currently in the pipeline are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics and are only short-term solutions.

Researchers found few potential treatment options for antibiotic-resistant infections, including drug-resistant tuberculosis which kills around 250,000 people each year.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, says that this is a global emergency.

“"There is an urgent need for more investment in research and development for antibiotic-resistant infections including TB, otherwise we will be forced back to a time when people feared common infections and risked their lives from minor surgery."

Dr Suzanne Hill of WHO says that pharmaceutical companies and researchers need to focus on new antibiotics against certain types of extremely serious infections.

WHO, together with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, has launched a partnership to counter the threat.

South Africa, Germany and the United Kingdom, among others, have pledged more than €56 million for this work.

WHO has warned that the new antibiotics won’t be sufficient to combat the threat of antimicrobial resistance, adding it will work with countries and partners to improve infection prevention.