Experts say Development of New Antibiotics Urgently Needed

Infectious diseases, such as MRSA, bacterial pneumonia, and Tuberculosis have been treated successfully with antibiotics for eight decades – we have been able to manage most infections with antibacterial drugs - at least until now. According to experts, we are now facing a dilemma in healthcare as the result of antibiotic resistance, and the development of new antibiotics are urgently needed.

The increasing incidence of drug resistant infections has caused much public concern, especially as it relates to MRSA. The problem of antibiotic resistance needs to be tackled urgently, say Otto Cars (Department of Medical Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden), and colleagues. They are calling for a “concerted global response… to tackle rising rates of antibiotic resistance.”

Europe’s most important disease threat is from bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, in their first epidemiological report on communicable diseases. “According to Professor Cars, “The growing phenomenon of bacterial resistance, caused by the use and abuse of antibiotics and the simultaneous decline in research and development of new medicines, is now threatening to take us back to a pre-antibiotic era.” Though we have known about the problem for sometime, the authors say reactions from “politicians, public health workers, and consumers to this threat to public health” has been weak, despite several requests from the World Health Assembly, urging massive efforts to prevent the "health care catastrophe of tomorrow."(1)

Alarmingly, only two new classes of antibiotics have been developed by drug companies since the 1960’s. Suggestions for getting antibiotics to the public include incentives, matched by public and private sectors, that would give priority to those most urgently needed. Improving diagnostic tests for bacteria and viruses may also save lives by reducing delays in treatment and limiting inappropriate antibiotic use, which just leads to more resistance.

The authors, all members of ReAct – Action on Antibiotic Resistance (, conclude that we must change our view of antibiotics …”individuals must be aware that their choice to use an antibiotic will affect the possibility of effectively treating bacterial infections in other people. All antibiotic use, appropriate or not, "uses up" some of the effectiveness of that antibiotic, diminishing our ability to use it in the future.”

(1)World Health Organization. Report on infectious diseases 2000: overcoming antimicrobial resistance. 2000.

Source: BMJ 2008; 337:a1438


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