Has the era of untreatable infections arrived?

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Antibiotic resistance is a major public health concern, with fears expressed that we shortly will run out of antibiotics. In reality, the picture is more mixed, improving against some pathogens but worsening against others. Against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)--the highest profile pathogen--the range of treatment options is expanding, with daptomycin, linezolid and tigecycline all launched, and telavancin, ceftobiprole, ceftaroline and dalbavancin anticipated. There is a greater problem with enterococci, especially if, as in endocarditis, bactericidal activity is needed and the isolate has high-level aminoglycoside resistance; nevertheless, daptomycin, telavancin and razupenem all offer cidal potential. Against Enterobacteriaceae, the rapid and disturbing spread of extended-spectrum beta-lactamases, AmpC enzymes and quinolone resistance is forcing increased reliance on carbapenems, with resistance to these slowly accumulating via the spread of metallo-, KPC and OXA-48 beta-lactamases. Future options overcoming some of these mechanisms include various novel beta-lactamase-inhibitor combinations, but none of these overcomes all the carbapenemase types now circulating. Multiresistance that includes carbapenems is much commoner in non-fermenters than in the Enterobacteriaceae, depending mostly on OXA carbapenemases in Acinetobacter baumannii and on combinations of chromosomal mutation in Pseudomonas aeruginosa. No agent in advanced development has much to offer here, though there is interest in modified, less-toxic, polymyxin derivatives and in the siderophore monobactam BAL30072, which has impressive activity against A. baumannii and members of the Burkholderia cepacia complex. A final and surprising problem is Neisseria gonorrhoeae, where each good oral agent has been eroded in turn and where there is now little in reserve behind the oral oxyimino cephalosporins, to which low-level resistance is emerging.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)i29-36
JournalJournal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy
Issue numberSuppl 1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2009


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Bacterial Infections
  • Drug Resistance, Multiple, Bacterial
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria
  • Humans
  • Prevalence

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