WHO says these 12 deadly superbugs pose the greatest health threats to humans

Feb 20 2019

The World Health Organization has released its first list of the world's most dangerous superbugs — 12 families of bacterial supervillains considered the most serious threats to human health.  Acinetobacter baumannii, which is in the critical category can cause lung, blood and brain infections

For the first time ever, the World Health Organization (WHO) has published a list of the world’s most dangerous and deadly superbugs or (antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens”) on Monday, detailing 12 families of bacterial supervillain that pose the greatest threat to human health and kill millions of people every year.


The list, created by a group of international experts led by the WHO and the University of Tübingen in Germany. With this list, the U.N. health agency is again raising the alarm over the growing health threat created by the gram-negative bacteria that are resistant to key antibiotic drugs. And that is making health care more complicated, as medical professionals are forced to try one drug after another to treat hospital-acquired infections.


In a press briefing on Monday, the U.N. health agency has urged scientists, governments and pharmaceutical industries to create new drugs to tackle 12 antibiotics-resistant supergerms, including salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus, threatening an explosion of incurable disease. The list is also intended to help guide and promote research and development (R&D) of new drugs by the pharmaceutical industry, as part of WHO’s efforts to address evolving global resistance to antimicrobial medicines.


“This list is a new tool to ensure R&D responds to urgent public health needs,” says Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation. “Antibiotic resistance is growing, and we are fast running out of treatment options. If we leave it to market forces alone, the new antibiotics we most urgently need are not going to be developed in time.”

For years, medical professionals have warned that the looming threat of bacteria resistant to antibiotic-drugs could result in a full-scale global crisis with millions of deaths. Globally, antibiotic resistance has been seen in every country, according to WHO, and according to the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance that was commissioned by the British government, about 700,000 people around the world die annually due to multidrug-resistant infections. And if the phenomenon can’t be halted, the experts predict that such infections will kill 10 million people annually by 2050 (more than cancer kills today).


The WHO list is divided into three categories according to the urgency of need for new antibiotics: critical, high and medium priority. Many belong to a class called gram-negative bacteria which have evolved to fight off multiple types of antibiotics.


At the top of the “critical” category are three families of bacteria— Acinetobacter baumannii and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can cause deadly bloodstream infections and pneumonia, most commonly spread mainly in hospitals among transplant recipients, chemotherapy patients and people in intensive care. And the third on the list, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, is a family of germs that include Salmonella and E. coli bacteria. They also commonly originate in hospitals, and can lead to bloodstream infections, urinary tract infections and pneumonia with high mortality rates. In January, an American woman died of an infection, resistant to all the available antibiotic-drugs, caused by a germ called Enterobacteriaceae, which is on the U.N. health agency’s critical list.

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