Report: New Drugs Needed to Fight Superbug

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There are not enough new drugs under development to tackle the growing problem of superbugs, which already kill 25,000 Europeans a year, EU health agencies warned Thursday.

In a joint report, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Medicines Agency urged policy-makers to set up global and European strategies to address the problem of multidrug-resistant bacteria.

They said around 25,000 patients die in the European Union each year from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which costs society C1.5 billion ($2.2 billion) a year.

The report, which was released during an EU health expert meeting about superbugs in Stockholm, said only 15 new anti-bacterial drugs are under development, most of which are in very early stages.

The superbugs used to be associated with hospitals but are now increasingly spreading in ordinary community settings. They can cause nasty skin infections, food poisoning as well as pneumonia and other life-threatening problems.

"Industry's pipeline contains very few new antibiotics active against multidrug-resistant bacteria. Without stimulating research and development into new antibiotics, an increasing number of infected patients will be without effective treatment," said Bo Aronsson, doctor and researcher with the European Medicines Agency.

Dominique Monnet, a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control researcher, added that patients suffering from healthcare-associated infections will be particularly hard hit.

The researchers said infections with the most common superbug MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, have been decreasing in recent years as a result of action plans in some EU countries. But they said the occurrence of multi-drug resistant strains of another type of bacteria, so-called gram-negatives, have been increasing steadily. There are few new drugs tackling these kind of bacteria, which include a resistant version of intestines bug E. coli, the researchers said.