Antibiotics are medicines used to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Resistance to antibiotics occurs when bacteria mutate in response to the use of these drugs. It is bacteria, not human beings or animals, that become resistant to antibiotics.
Resistance to antibiotics today is one of the greatest threats to global health, food security and development, and can affect anyone, regardless of age or the country in which they live. It is a natural phenomenon, although the misuse of these drugs in humans and animals is accelerating the process. Increasing numbers of infections – for example, pneumonia, tuberculosis and gonorrhea – whose treatment becomes more difficult due to the loss of effectiveness of antibiotics. Consequently, antibiotic resistance prolongs hospital stays, increases medical costs and increases mortality.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for the urgent development of new antibiotics to fight growing bacterial resistance. WHO published in February its first ever list of antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens” – a catalogue of 12 families of bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health. The list is divided into three categories according to the urgency of need for new antibiotics: critical, high and medium priority. The most critical group include Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and various Enterobacteriaceae that can cause severe and often deadly infections such as bloodstream infections and pneumonia.
In this regard, WHO has called on health authorities worldwide to adapt their R&D policies and allocate a specific budget to meet this need. So that, WHO’s members say a proposal has been made to establish a $2 billion innovation fund. This would act as an incentive for pharmaceutical companies to kick-start research and development into new antibiotics.
While more R&D is vital, alone, it cannot solve the problem. To address resistance, there must also be better prevention of infections and a rational use of existing and new developed antibiotics.