The world is running out of antibiotics: WHO

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Laboratory worker testing antibiotics on a resistant infection. Photo: PAHO/Joshua Cogan

The world is running out of life-saving antibiotics, according to a new report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday.

WHO said that there was a "serious lack" of new antibiotics under development to combat the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant so-called "superbugs."

Matt Wells reports.

The report on antibacterial agents shows that most of the drugs currently being developed to treat illnesses are modifications of existing classes of antibiotics, and not new strains.

It found that there were "very few treatment options" for those antibiotic-resistant infections identified by WHO as posing the greatest threat to health.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus, WHO Director-General, said that "antimicrobial resistance is a global health emergency that will seriously jeopardize progress in modern medicine."

He said there was an urgent need for more investment in research and development in the field for infections, including tuberculosis, or TB.

Otherwise, he added, we will be "forced back to a time when people feared common infections and risked their lives from minor surgery."

In addition to drug resistant TB, WHO has identified 12 classes of priority bugs, some of which cause common infections like pneumonia or urinary tract infections, that are increasingly resistant to existing antibiotics, and "urgently in need of new treatments."

Matt Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 58″

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