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The Desperate Need for New Antibiotics

In recent years, efforts to combat drug-resistant bacteria have focused on the immediate goal of reducing rates of hospital-acquired infections. But now global health officials face an approaching crisis: the number of different antibiotics available to treat such infections when they do occur is dwindling because pharmaceutical companies have neglected to invest in the development of new types of drugs. Bacterial and parasitic diseases are the second-leading cause of death worldwide, according to a report on antibiotic research released Sept. 17 by the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), with 175,000 deaths attributed to hospital-acquired infections each year in Europe alone. And due to the emergence of drug-resistant "superbugs," such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), traditional antibiotics such as penicillin and its derivatives are becoming obsolete. New antibiotics are desperately needed, but the amount of money being spent on the research and development of these drugs is woefully inadequate. "The issue is quite dreadful," says Elias Mossialos, a professor of Health Policy at LSE and author of the report. "When you look down the pipeline, there are only a handful of new antibiotics in development, and all in the early stages."

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