We aren’t investing in new drugs, and it’s developing into a public health crisis.
If you get sick with a virus, you can always stay home for a few days, hiding out in bed. Sip some Gatorade and drink soup. Most of us don’t worry about getting better.
If worst comes to worst, we know we can always go to the hospital. There, they’ll provide us with antibiotic treatment to help fight things off, right?
Unfortunately, no, that’s not always the case. The fact is, we are under attack.
This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a list of 12 superbugs that we urgently need antibiotics to treat, for the first time ever. The list involves sicknesses that we no longer have any way of treating with antibiotics, as the bugs have become entirely resistant to drugs.
The “priority pathogens” come from 12 families of bacteria. Of all dangerous bacteria, they pose the greatest threat to humanity, and are divided into critical, high risk and medium risk pathogens.
Bugs that are resistant to multiple drugs, and that spread throughout hospitals and nursing homes, are first on the list. They are our true enemies.
These bacteria target patients who use ventilators and blood catheters. They wreak havoc by causing severe and often deadly infections in our blood and lungs.
The second most deadly group on the list is full of bacteria that isn’t always drug resistant, but is becoming so, in more and more cases. It’s filled with bugs that cause lovely things like gonorrhea and salmonella food poisoning.
So… why haven’t we put our minds to fixing this problem before?
Too Little Cash
Simply put, we’re greedy and there’s too little money in it.
Part of the problem that science, (and the rest of us) is facing is that no pharmaceutical company is going to develop the drugs needed to treat these infections.
“Antibiotic resistance is growing, and we are fast running out of treatment options,” said Dr. Marie Paule Kieny, the WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation. “If we leave it to market forces alone, the new antibiotics we most urgently need are not going to be developed in time,” she added.
These infections target too few people. Putting time and money into figuring out how to treat them isn’t a good business venture.
But what if you’re next?
By publishing the list, the WHO is hoping that, perhaps it will cause some panic and at the very least, it might mobilize people to get working.
The WHO wants governments to change the rules and put policies in place that incentivize basic science and advanced research and development in new antibiotic discovery.
We’re in dire straights and we need scientists to step up.
Experts are hoping that governments encourage both publicly funded groups and companies from the private sector to get going and put their minds towards developing new drugs that can help us.
One of the people who helped create the list, Professor Evelina Tacconelli, who is Head of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Tübingen, feels that action is needed now.
“New antibiotics targeting this priority list of pathogens will help to reduce deaths due to resistant infections around the world. Waiting any longer will cause further public health problems and dramatically impact on patient care,” she stated.
How can regular citizens help? Don’t go to the doctor with a cold. The misuse of antibiotics is just making things worse.