Antibiotic resistance

With antibiotic resistance growing, WHO promotes monitoring tool

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Due to the lack of new antibiotics in the pipeline, current drugs must be better monitored and prescribed before the problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) reaches a "Titanic" stage, World Health Organization scientists warned Tuesday as they launch a campaign to promote the use of a monitoring tool, AWaRe.

Why it matters: The growing level of superbugs is a potentially "catastrophic" global threat that could have a yearly death toll of 10 million people by 2050. WHO says using AWaRe would be one tool in promoting its goal that 60% of all antibiotics used come from the "access" category of antibiotics, or what's typically thought of as the first or second line of defense.

Study: How the E. coli bacteria becomes antibiotic resistant

Photo of E. coli and DNA transfer in real time from live microscope
Drug-resistant bacteria producing a resistance factor, TetA efflux pump (in red), during treatment with tetracycline antibiotic (in green).  Photo: Christian Lesterlin/MMSB department, University of Lyon, France

Using technology with real-time viewing, a team of scientists say in Science Thursday they can now show how quickly E. coli becomes resistant to tetracycline — finding that bacteria can pass genes with resistance to each other and then use a pump to keep most of the antibiotic out for the 2 hours it takes to render the previously sensitive bacteria resistant to the drug.

Why it matters: Antibiotic resistance is a growing threat that's projected to kill 10 million people every year by 2050. The discovery of how it occurs, at least in a lab setting, could help scientists develop an inhibitor that could be combined with an antibiotic to boost its effectiveness, study co-author Christian Lesterlin tells Axios.