Declining private investment and lack of innovation in developing new antibiotics are undermining efforts to combat drug-resistant infections, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned.
Two new WHO reports reveal a weak pipeline for antibiotic agents. The 60 products in development (50 antibiotics and 10 biologics) bring little benefit over existing treatments, only 32 of the potential antibiotics target WHO-priority pathogens, and very few (two) target Gram-negative bacteria.
While the pre-clinical pipeline shows more innovation and diversity, with 252 agents under development to treat WHO-priority pathogens, these products are in very early stages.
The reports also highlight a worrying gap in activity against the highly resistant NDM-1 (New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase 1) with only three antibiotics in the pipeline.
The pipeline for antibacterial agents to treat tuberculosis and Clostridium difficile is more promising, however.
“Never has the threat of antimicrobial resistance been more immediate and the need for solutions more urgent,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“Numerous initiatives are underway to reduce resistance, but we also need countries and the pharmaceutical industry to step up and contribute with sustainable funding and innovative new medicines.”
Antibiotics research and development is now primarily driven by small or medium-sized enterprises, as large pharmaceutical companies exit the field, the WHO noted.