New antibiotics are trickling out of the pipeline

After years of growing alarm, researchers are beginning to pick up the pace of developing new drugs to treat bacterial infections, according to a new viewpoint in ACS Infectious Diseases. Five new antibiotics that can treat drug-resistant infections were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration between May of 2014 and February 2015, and a new batch is on its way through the pipeline. These drugs are urgently needed as antibiotic-resistant bacteria continue to march through clinics.

Since the 1980s, the number of new antibiotics dwindled, even as bacteria became increasingly resistant to old drugs. For instance, the fraction of Pseudomonas aeruginosa infections that were resistant to fluoroquinolone antibiotics rose from 0 percent in 1990 to more than 30 percent in 2004.

The rise in resistant bacteria is largely due to overuse. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that up to 50 percent of antibiotic prescriptions for humans are unnecessary. And that’s only part of the problem—agriculture and aquaculture are estimated to take in the lion’s share of antibiotics used in the United States.

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