World Health Organization publishes list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria needing research

World Health Organization publishes list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria needing research

"This priority pathogens list, developed with input from across our community, is important to steer research in the race against drug resistant infection - one of the greatest threats to modern health", said Tim Jinks, head of drug resistant infections for the British medical charity Wellcome Trust.

Tuberculosis was not included on the list because the search for new treatments for this infection is already being prioritised.

Of the 40 antibiotics in clinical development in the United States, "fewer than half even have the potential to treat the pathogens identified by World Health Organization", he said.

Top of the list are gram-negative bugs, such as E. coli, which can cause lethal bloodstream infections and pneumonia in frail hospital patients. Developing antibiotics to treat highly resistant bacterial infections is especially challenging because only a small number of patients contract these infections and meet the requirements to participate in traditional clinical trials.

Three other bacteria were listed as being of medium priority, because they are becoming increasingly resistant to available drugs.

Those under the high priority category include less hardy but still unsafe bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus strains that are resistant to common antibiotics as well as vancomycin, a last-resort drug for staph; Salmonella strains that are resistant to fluoroquinolones and cause food poisoning; and Helicobacter pylori strains that are resistant to the first line drug clarithromycin and often cause chronic ulcers.

Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO's Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation, said: "Antibiotic resistance is growing, and we are fast running out of treatment options". We see-with alarming regularity-the critical-listed bacterial infections in people we treat in the field, including babies and children, burn victims and conflict and trauma injuries.

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Notably missing from the list is the bacterium that causes tuberculosis. And those under the medium priority umbrella include resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae, a common cause of pneumonia, and resistant Shigella, a foodborne germ. This bacterium causes pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, as well as meningitis and blood infections.

If antibiotics lose their effectiveness, key medical procedures - including organ transplantation, caesarean sections, joint replacements and chemotherapy - could become too unsafe to perform.

Although there has been renewed interest and research investment in antibiotics because of the growing threat that antibiotic resistance poses, much of the work is more focused on antibiotics with a broad range, she said.

Priority 1: Critical 1.

Also included in this critical group is Acinetobacter baumannii; the infections tied to it typically occur in ICUs and settings with very sick patients. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, carbapenem-resistant 3.

Enterococcus faecium, vancomycin-resistant; Responsible for hospital-acquired infections such as wound infections and urinary tract infections. Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant, vancomycin-intermediate and resistant 6.

Helicobacter pylori, clarithromycin-resistant; Usually infect the stomach and can cause ulcers and inflammatory conditions in the stomach. Campylobacter spp., fluoroquinolone-resistant 8. Haemophilus influenzae, ampicillin-resistant 12.