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Superbug battle

One of the most urgent global public health problems is the increasing capability of bacteria to resist antibiotic drugs. The crisis of antimicrobial resistance is particularly acute in hospitals, where superbugs able to resist multiple drugs have spawned.

The specter of a world without effective antibiotics has been looming for years, but recent evidence suggests that the superbugs are evolving ever faster.

Meanwhile, the pipeline of new antibiotics is running dry, leaving some patients with no effective treatment for life-threatening disease.

The Food and Drug Administration announced last month that it is establishing a 19-member task force aimed at boosting the development of antibacterial drugs.

The dearth of new antibiotics is due, in part, to economics. Antibiotics are usually taken for a short period and thus are not as lucrative as drugs for chronic disease; pharmaceutical companies have turned away from expensive research and development in the field. But the problem is also regulatory and scientific.

The FDA task force has pledged to take a look at “new approaches for weighing the risks, benefits and uncertainties of potential new antibacterial drugs.”

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has just published a valuable report on drug development.

The panel found that remarkable advances in basic biomedical research — including leaps in understanding genomics — “have not yet led to a significant increase in the flow of new medicines to the American public.”

The FDA’s task force, working with industry, government, clinicians and academia, may produce better results.

The Washington Post

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