New antibiotics desperately needed as germs become more resistant


Most drugs are developed based on the likelihood of high profits, which motivates investment, but researchers say this approach is not working to ensure global access to antibiotics in the face of increasing AMR. — dpa

Around 750,000 of the almost five million annual deaths caused by antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – when antibiotics and other antimicrobial medicines no longer work on bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites – could be prevented, researchers say.

In a damning set of papers in The Lancet medical journal, researchers criticise the current approach to battling antimicrobial infections and say medicines could save more lives if pharmaceutical development were less driven by profit forecasts.

The multinational team of doctors and scientists also explained that improvements to sanitation and infection control could cut the number of people who die each year due to increasingly ineffective antibiotics.

Measures such as “improving and expanding existing methods to prevent infections, such as hand hygiene, regular cleaning and sterilisation of equipment in healthcare facilities, availability of safe drinking water, effective sanitation and use of paediatric vaccines” should help reduce death tolls, the researchers said.

“Focusing on interventions with demonstrated effectiveness in preventing infections must be at the heart of global action to tackle AMR,” said associate professor of epidemiology Dr Joseph Lewnard of the University of California in Berkeley, United States.

The researchers at the same time called for “expanding access to existing and new antibiotics” and for “increasing investment in new antibiotics” to help combat the impact of bacterial infections, which – not including tuberculosis – kill 7.7 million people worldwide each year.

“Access to effective antibiotics is essential to patients worldwide,” said professor of pharmaceutical microbiology Dr IIruka Okeke of the University of Ibadan in Nigeria.

More investment in developing new or improved drugs is needed to counter the growing problem of germs that resist antibiotics – the cause of 4.9 million infection-related deaths.

“The increasing number of bacterial infections that are no longer responding to any available antibiotics indicate an urgent need to invest in – and ensure global access to – new antibiotics, vaccines and diagnostic tests,” said Dr Ursula Theuretzbacher, founder of the Center for Anti-Infective Agents in Vienna, Austria.

“The traditional model of drug development, which depends on the likelihood of high profits to motivate investment, is not working for antibiotics,” she warned. – dpa

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