The World Health Organization has issued a dire warning that we are running out of antibiotics and not producing new medications quickly enough.

The report, released Tuesday, said there is a “serious lack” of new antibiotics being developed to fight the growing number of infections resistant to existing antibiotics. Moreover, the majority of drugs currently in the clinical pipeline are simply modifications to existing antibiotics and are “only short-term solutions”.

“The report found very few potential treatment options for those antibiotic-resistant infections identified by WHO as posing the greatest threat to health, including drug-resistant tuberculosis which kills around 250,000 people each year,” read the WHO statement.

There is an urgent need for more investment into the research and development of antibiotic-resistant infections such as TB, says the WHO’s Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will seriously jeopardize progress in modern medicine,” Ghebreyesus added. “Otherwise we will be forced back to a time when people feared common infections and risked their lives from minor surgery.”

The report identified a dozen other priority classes of pathogen, including those causing common infections such as pneumonia or UTIs, which are becoming “increasingly resistant to existing antibiotics and urgently in need of new treatments.”

Out of the 51 new antibiotics in clinical development to treat the priority resistant infections, the WHO found only eight which are classed as “innovative treatments that will add value to the current antibiotic treatment arsenal.”

There are also “very few” oral antibiotics in the clinical pipeline; medication that is essential for treating infections outside of the hospital environment.

“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,” said Dr Suzanne Hill, Director of the Department of Essential Medicines at WHO.


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