[Ip-health] FT: WHO raises alarm over drug-resistant superbug

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Tue Feb 28 00:03:31 PST 2017



by: Gonzalo Viña

The World Health Organization has issued a call to arms to companies and
governments to develop antibiotics to combat superbugs’ growing resistance
to existing medicines.

The UN agency has identified 12 such pathogens that need urgent attention —
including one bacterium that tends to attack people with weak immune
systems and another that can strike in hospital ventilators and lead to

Marie-Paule Kieny, a WHO assistant director-general, warned that few new
antibiotics were being developed, and called on governments to work with
industry to share the cost of new drugs. “The pipeline is particularly
dry”, she said, adding that drug companies may now need to target small
groups of superbugs rather than developing antibiotics to treat a broad
range of pathogens.

 Tim Jinks, head of drug resistant infections at Wellcome Trust, the
world’s second largest private funder of medical research, said that,
without new antibiotics, deaths from drug resistant infections could reach
10m a year.

 “Without new medicines to treat deadly infection, life-saving treatments
like chemotherapy and organ transplant, and routine operations like
Caesareans and hip replacements, will be potentially fatal,” he said in a


But the Geneva-based institution also argues that the lack of new
antibiotics has aggravated the problem of bacteria’s natural evolution —
which can allow the pathogens to survive existing drugs.

 Last year, Jim O’Neill, a former Goldman Sachs economist who was then a UK
Treasury minister, proposed a multibillion-dollar levy on pharmaceutical
companies to pay for the development of new antibiotics.

 He urged a “play or pay” scheme under which pharma companies would be
offered a “market entry reward” of up to $1.3bn for producing an effective
new antibiotic, paid in large part by a surcharge on other drugmakers.

 The WHO’s critical list of antibiotic-resistant pathogens includes
Acinetobacter baumannii, which hits weak immune systems, and Pseudomonas
aeruginosa, the bacterium that can contaminate hospital ventilators, as
well as Enterobacteriaceae, which can affect the human gut. The agency
identified a further six groups of bacteria as“high priority.” It describes
three more as medium risk.


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