David Fuller's view -
The World Health Organization announced its first list of antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens” on Monday, detailing 12 families of bacteria that agency experts say pose the greatest threat to human health and kill millions of people every year.
The list is divided into three categories, prioritized by the urgency of the need for new antibiotics. The purpose is to guide and promote research and development of new drugs, officials said. Most of the pathogens are among the nearly two dozen antibiotic-resistant microbes that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned in a 2013 report could cause potentially catastrophic consequences if the United States didn't act quickly to combat the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant infections.
“This list is not meant to scare people about new superbugs,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, an assistant director-general at WHO. “It's intended to signal research and development priorities to address urgent public health threats.”
Superbugs that the WHO considers the highest priority are responsible for severe infections and high mortality rates, especially among hospitalized patients in intensive care or using ventilators and blood catheters, as well as among transplant recipients and people undergoing chemotherapy. While these pathogens are not widespread, “the burden for society is now alarming,” she said.
Included in this highest-priority group is CRE, or carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, which U.S. health officials have dubbed “nightmare bacteria.” In some instances, it kills up to 50 percent of patients who become infected. An elderly Nevada woman who died last year contracted an infection caused by CRE that was resistant to all 26 antibiotics available in the United States.
This a serious problem and your fellow subscriber Dr David Brown had some interesting comments on it recently.
As I understand it, one of the problems is that pharmaceutical companies have been expected to discover new, effective antibiotics. However, this is an extremely expensive and uncertain proposition, which can involve many years of research for little reward. If a successful new antibiotic is created, pharmaceutical companies will find it difficult to recover their development capital as many infections will require only a short period of treatment, unlike long-term treatments for many diseases, including cancers. Moreover, if pharmaceutical companies charge a commercial rate, they will be accused of heartless price gouging.
A practical solution to this problem, I suggest, is a three-pronged approach in which government laboratories, work in cooperation with university medical schools and also pharmaceutical companies to produce new antibiotics for specific medical conditions. This would increase the research effort, share the developmental costs and also the rewards for successful products. I would be surprised if measures along these lines were not already underway.
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