The World Health Organisation on Monday published its first-ever list of antibiotic-resistant "priority pathogens", a catalogue of 12 families of bacteria that posed threat to human health. As more and more types of bacteria develop resistance to antimicrobial medications, new antibiotics are needed to fight infection.
The list "sets priorities in the right direction", says Petra Gastmeier, head of the Institute for Hygiene and Environmental Medicine at Charité University of Medicine Berlin, who wasn't involved in the development of the list.
The critical group includes infection-causing bacteria that are resistant to several drugs and pose a particular threat in hospitals and nursing homes, and specifically to patients on ventilators or fitted with blood catheters. Tuberculosis was not included on the list, despite the threat posed by MDR-TB and XDR-TB, because it is targeted by other, dedicated programs.
Though Enne did not help with the final list, she agrees that these 12 types of bacteria are the ones in need of most attention, adding that the top three types on the list now require use of a less than ideal drug, known as Colistin, to treat them. The objective behind listing the bacteria is to help scientists identify the pathogens and as well as develop newer effective antibiotics. The last three pathogens, including Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and shigella, are considered "medium priority", because they're now susceptible to antibiotics, though experts fear they'll soon become resistant as well.
The rate of multi-drug resistant infections jumped from 0.2 of all Enterobacteriaceae infections in 2007 to 1.5 percent in 2015, a 700 percent increase.
Pathogens in the high-priority category-which can cause hard-to-treat infections in healthy people but generally don't have a high mortality risk-include vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and fluoroquinolone-resistant Salmonella. World Health Organization called on hospital infection-control experts and drug researchers to make the most risky pathogens a top priority.
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The WHO's assistant director-general for health systems and innovation, Marie-Paule Kieny, said it was up to governments to put in place policies to boost investment in research and development if new drugs are to be found in time.
At the top of the list are three types of gram-negative bacteria that are resistant to multiple antibiotics, including the last-resort carbapenems: carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter baumanni, carbapenem-resistant Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and carbapenem-resistant, extended-spectrum beta lactamase (ESBL)-producing Enterobacteriaceae.
In 2013, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a similar list, though the CDC's list looked more at bacteria that's hard to treat (such as drug-resistant gonorrhea) but not fatal, whereas the WHO's list examines bacteria that's more likely to be fatal. They should now address priority health needs and ensure new antibiotics developed with public money are affordable and available to everybody who needs them, no matter where they live. According to a new study, the number of hospitalized children in the USA infected with a bacteria resistant to multiple types of antibiotic drugs surged between 2007 and 2015.
Most people who come into contact with these bacteria won't get sick and won't get a drug resistant form, but in some cases these bugs can prove deadly. She added that antibiotics are often used as short-term treatments, meaning there is less market motivation for drug companies to make them. However, the study showed how the bacteria listed as "critical priorities" are not affected in a considerable way by the use of the drug in patients.
Macquarie University Professor Dr Michael Gillings said it was just as important for Australians to stop over using antibiotics as it was to create new ones.
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