According to a new report by the World Health Organization, the world is running out of antibiotics that effectively combat a number of serious health conditions.
Antibiotics are medicines that are prescribed for treating infections caused by bacteria. They are not effective against viruses. One of the main issues that arise from excessive antibiotic usage is antibiotic resistance. According to the WHO, antibiotic resistance occurs “when bacteria change in response to the use of these medicines.” This is a natural outcome, which is accelerated greatly by the misuse of these drugs. When bacteria are repeatedly exposed to the same antibiotics, they become immune to them, and hence, the drug becomes ineffective.
As a result, it is becoming harder to treat a number of serious diseases. Antibiotic resistance results in higher mortality rates, higher medical costs and longer hospital stays.
The latest report by the WHO states that there is a growing threat of antimicrobial resistance in the world. They also state that the newer antibiotics, which are modifications of existing medications, and currently in development, are not sufficient to counter this problem.
The report notes, “Given the average success rates and development times in the past, the current pipeline of antibiotics and biologicals could lead to around 10 new approvals over the next five years,” says the report, adding “However, these new treatments will add little to the already existing arsenal and will not be sufficient to tackle the impending antimicrobial resistance threat.”
TedrosAdhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO notes, "Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will seriously jeopardize progress in modern medicine. 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.”
The report has specifically listed 12 pathogens that are a serious danger to public health, due to the lack of effective antibiotics to counter their rise. Suzanne Hill, Director of the Department of Essential Medicines at WHO has urged companies and researchers to become more proactive and says, “Pharmaceutical companies and researchers must urgently focus on new antibiotics against certain types of extremely serious infections that can kill patients in a matter of days because we have no line of defence.”
Our assessment is that this could become a global epidemic if unchecked. The scientific community and pharmaceutical companies must work together to address this problem. According to certain estimates, drug-resistant infections kill 700,000 people a year globally. This number will likely increase if this problem is not addressed.