Currently, there are two new antibiotics under development in order to combat the threat of multidrug-resistant infections
However, scientists are concerned with the likelihood that the speed of increasing resistance might outpace the slow drug development processes.
From May, a total of 51 antibiotics and 11 biologicals (products made from natural sources) are under development.
“The idea is that biologicals could replace use of antibiotics, which could help in overcoming the resistance problem,” Peter Beyer, an author of the report and senior adviser to the WHO’s Department of Essential Medicines and Health Products wrote in an email
It may seem that this large number of new drugs should suffice; however, it is not even close to what we actually need.
Firstly, 33 of the antibiotics that are under development target priority pathogens. This year, WHO published a list of a dozen priority pathogens: 12 separate families of resistant bacteria that pose the highest threat to human health.
Among those, a drug-resistant tuberculosis that kills about 250,000 people around the world is one of the examples.
From the 33 potential medicines for treating these priority bug infections, only eight are innovations. The other 25 are just modifications of the already existing families of antibiotics. Best case scenario, the 25 will be used as a short-term solution since it is expected that the bacteria will adapt quickly and resist to these new drugs.
“It is difficult to speculate why companies develop specific new medicines,” Beyer noted. “But in general many new treatments do not necessarily constitute advances over existing treatments.”