The Dirty Dozen: The WHO’s list of priority bacteria for which we need new antibiotics

The WHO has published a list of 12 bacteria for which we need to urgently develop antibiotics as these drug resistant bacteria represent a major threat against human health. This priority list is expected to guide funding agencies incentivize priority research on developing strategies to combat these agents.

The WHO has come up with a list of twelve bacteria against which antibiotics need to be developed urgently. In this short report, the WHO has developed a global priority list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to guide research, discovery and development of new antibiotics. The twelve priority agents include the following:

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In its report, the main objective of developing the global priority pathogen list (PPL) has been succinctly described:

The major objective of the global PPL is to guide the prioritization of incentives and funding, help align R&D priorities with public health needs and support global coordination in the fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria. The WHO PPL targets policy initiatives to incentivize basic science and advanced R&D by both public funding agencies and the private sector investing in new antibiotics.

Further, the authors clarify that they did not include Mycobacterium since it is already a vital priority on a global scale, in both the drug resistant and drug sensitive avatars. Further, though the methodology is open to compile other pathogens, like parasites and viruses and fungi, all of which have vital issues related to drug resistance, this current list has not included them and has just focused on the bacteria.

The PPL was developed by a group of experts applying the principles of Multi Criteria Decision Analysis. For the process of prioritization, ten criteria were used. They were:

  1. All-cause mortality
  2. Healthcare burden
  3. Community burden
  4. Prevalence of resistance
  5. 10-year trend of resistance
  6. Transmissibility
  7. Preventability in hospital settings
  8. Preventability in community settings
  9. Treatability and
  10. Current pipeline.

Each antibiotic-resistant bacterium was scored according to the available evidence and criteria definitions.

Skeptic Oslerphile. PhD Student in the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Past: 1) Public Health Scientist and Program Manager, Translational Global Health Policy Research Cell, Department of Health Research, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. 2) Scientist, Indian Council of Medical Research, National Institute of Cholera and Enteric Diseases; 3) Senior Research Associate, Public Health Foundation of India. Interests include: Emerging Infections, Public Health, Antimicrobial Resistance, One Health and Zoonoses, Diarrheal Diseases, Medical Education, Medical History, Open Access, Healthcare Social Media and Health2.0. Opinions are my own!

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