A list of priority pathogens for developing new antibiotics was created by a WHO working group. The results were recently published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases (December, 21). We interviewed Prof. Evelina Tacconelli (German Centre for Infection Research, University Hospital Tübingen), who was leading the investigation.
Mrs. Tacconelli, the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a great problem worldwide. Finding new antibiotics is a big challenge. What is the current state of research? How likely is it that appropriate antibiotics can be developed in the next years?
I think that the research in the field is moving fast and for the first time different private and public stakeholders are working together at international level. Definitively there will be new antibiotics in the next years. Our duty is to clearly define what appropriate means at clinical level and be sure that new classes of antibiotics, effective on different type of infections will be produced.
In which countries the problem of multidrug-resistant bacteria is extremely high?
One of the major point underlined by the work performed for the WHO list is the strong limitation of surveillance data at global level, in particular from low and medium income countries (LMIC).
The data demonstrates that antibiotic resistance is an increasing problem in LMIC and in the high income countries.
And what is about the CEE region?
As already described in many reports, the burden is higher in the South East of Europe.
What needs to be done in parallel (to the development of new antibiotics), and what is about the WHO-efforts regarding the implementation of antibiotic stewardship programs in the relevant countries?
WHO is investing a lot in increasing reliability of surveillance data and implementation of antibiotic stewardship with different initiatives. Personally, I believe that more can be done and specific task forces should be created and financed with a global country support.
Faster results can be achieved by increasing efforts in antibiotic stewardship and in all interventions as sanitation and vaccination which could reduce the overall number of infections and usage of antibiotics.
In an interview that you gave last year at ECCMID in Vienna, you said that “we are not winning, we are not losing, but there is still hope”. How great is your hope? Are you optimistic that we can make a major step forward within the next years?
I will never lose my optimism! I’m seeing after many years the most brilliant minds of young scientists moving to this field, who a few years ago they would have chosen the HIV research… This together with an increased political awareness can make the difference.