Why Can’t We Find New Antibiotics?

Why Can’t We Find New Antibiotics?


Antibiotics save lives—millions of lives. But the more we use them, the less effective they become. Sooner or later, bacteria will evolve to defeat every antibiotic we have, so we’ll always need to find new drugs to
fight bacterial infections. Yet, today, there are too few antibiotics
in development to meet the growing need. So why can’t we find new antibiotics? In the ‘golden’ age of antibiotic discovery, scientists tested millions of molecules and found a few new types of antibiotics. Most of the drugs we have today are based on these discoveries. But the last time scientists discovered a truly new antibiotic that made it to market was in 1984. It has grown increasingly difficult to find new antibiotics, in large part, due to scientific challenges. Overcoming these challenges are key to beating the toughest bugs out there: Drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria. These superbugs have a gauntlet of defenses. And we must find new molecules that can get through and destroy them. So, what are the challenges to discovering new molecules? There are millions of different molecules
out there, so it’s hard to know where to look. Scientists need to experiment to figure out what types of molecules can get into bacteria and stay in, and which can’t, in order to create guidelines for finding the molecules that work. Then, scientists can build collections of promising molecules, which researchers everywhere
can use to search for new antibiotics more effectively. At the same time, they also need to think outside the box and test out entirely new approaches to see what else may lead to new types of medicines. What is at stake? Without new antibiotics, the care we take
for granted today —like surgery, chemotherapy, and dialysis— may become too dangerous, and simple infections could become deadly. We are ALL at risk. A targeted, scientific approach has the power to transform antibiotic research and spur innovation of the new antibiotics we so desperately need.

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One thought on “Why Can’t We Find New Antibiotics?”

  • Government should buy the patents for antibiotics and reserve them for the most resistant cases. That way the drug companies make money, but not by over proscribing antibiotics.

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