Article: Drugs to Fight Deadly Superbugs in Short Supply
An antibiotic apocalypse looms, and only seven new drugs are in development to combat the most lethal superbugs, including carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), the often incurable “nightmare bacteria” that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned about last month, citing a new report from the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA).
"We're on the precipice of returning to the dark days before antibiotics enabled safer surgery, chemotherapy and the care of premature infants," says Dr. Helen Boucher, an infectious diseases specialist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston and lead author of the IDSA report, published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases.
With the seven new drugs years away, if they win FDA approval at all, “we’re down to one last-resort antibiotic to fight an epidemic of highly resistant gram-negative bacterial infections,” reports Brian Currie, MD, vice president and medical director for research at Montefiore Medical Center in NYC.
This last-resort drug—polymyxin—can be potentially toxic to the brain and kidneys, adds Dr. Currie, “but in this era of desperation, it’s all we have left, and now, ominously, there are CRE isolates [the so-called “nightmare bacteria”] that don’t respond to it, which means we have nothing to fall back on.”
“We’re All at Risk”
The drug pipeline for new weapons against deadly superbugs is “on life support, and novel solutions are required to resuscitate it—now,” IDSA president David Relman, MD said in a statement.
“We’re all at risk,” adds Dr. Boucher.
Each year, nearly two million Americans develop healthcare-acquired infections—most of them triggered by antibiotic-resistant bacteria—and 100,000 of them die. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC have called antibiotic resistance one of the single greatest health threats of our time, while the IDSA has warned of a looming “antibiotic apocalypse” since 2004.