Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria viewed by transmission electron microscopy
Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria viewed by transmission electron microscopy

The dwindling antibiotic pipeline

The increase of AMR has accelerated the need for new antibiotics that bacteria are not yet resistant to.

However, the process of discovering, developing and testing a new antibiotic before it can be used routinely is lengthy and expensive. Discovery of new antibiotics flourished in the 1950s (Figure 1), when many new antibiotics were isolated from soil-dwelling bacteria. However, since then the rate of discovery has declined with no new classes of antibiotic licensed as medicines since the 1980s. Most new antibiotic products that are approved today are in the same classes as antibiotics discovered decades ago (“class” describes groups of antibiotics that share a basic chemical structure and mechanism of action). This is particularly concerning because resistance to one antibiotic often extends to other antibiotics within the same class. Owing to the difficulties faced in discovering new antibiotics, many pharmaceutical companies have scaled back their research and development into new antibiotics. With increasing AMR, this means that the pool of available drugs for bacterial infections is rapidly dwindling.

Antibiotic registrations by decade Figure 1: New antibiotics registered by decade (Click image to expand)

The O’Neill report describes the impact of AMR on society, and makes recommendations for safeguarding antibiotic efficacy in the future.

This report by the Pew Trust describes research priorities for developing new antibiotics.

Although there have been no new antibiotic classes approved for use in the clinic in recent decades, current research offers some hope for the future: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-43032602 © Copyright 2018 BBC

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Bacterial Genomes: Disease Outbreaks and Antimicrobial Resistance

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