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WHO raises alarm over lack of new antibiotics

AFP file/Geneva
Filed on January 18, 2020
antibiotics, who, world health organisation


An estimated 33,000 people die in Europe every year from such drug-resistant bacteria, according to EU data.

The World Health Organisation warned on Friday that a dire lack of new antibiotics was threatening efforts to curb the spread of drug-resistant bacteria, which kills tens of thousands of people each year. The UN health agency published two new reports revealing that there are few new effective antibiotics in the pipeline, meaning that the world is running out of options for fighting so-called superbugs.

"Never has the threat of antimicrobial resistance been more immediate and the need for solutions more urgent," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.

"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," he said. Antibiotic resistance happens when bugs become immune to existing drugs, rendering minor injuries and common infections potentially deadly.

An estimated 33,000 people die in Europe every year from such drug-resistant bacteria, according to EU data, while the US estimates the death toll there is around 35,000.

"We see that this is spreading and we are running actually out of antibiotics that are effective against these resistant bacteria," Peter Beyer, of WHO's essential medicines division, told reporters in Geneva. "This is one of the biggest health threats that we have identified," he said.

Discovered in the 1920s, antibiotics have saved tens of millions of lives by defeating bacterial diseases such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and meningitis.

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