ACCRA, The World Health Organization (WHO) has published its first ever list of antibiotic-resistant “priority pathogens”, a catalogue of 12 families of bacteria which pose the greatest threat to human health.

According to a WHO report received here Tuesday, the list was drawn up in a bid to guide and promote research and development of new antibiotics, as part of its efforts to address growing global resistance to antimicrobial medicines.

According to the WHO report, the list highlights in particular the threat of gram-negative bacteria which resistant to multiple antibiotics. It indicated that the bacteria had built-in abilities to find new ways to resist treatment and could pass along genetic material which allowed other bacteria to become drug-resistant as well.

“This list is a new tool to ensure research and development responds to urgent public health needs,” said Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation.

“Antibiotic resistance is growing, and we are fast running out of treatment options. If we leave it to market forces alone, the new antibiotics we most urgently need are not going to be developed in time,” she stated.

The WHO list was divided into three categories according to the urgency of need for new antibiotics — critical, high and medium priority. The report said the most critical group of all includes multi-drug resistant bacteria which pose a particular threat in hospitals, nursing homes, and among patients whose care requires devices such as ventilators and blood catheters.

They include Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas and various Enterobacteriaceae (including Klebsiella, E. coli, Serratia, and Proteus) and they could cause severe and often deadly infections such as bloodstream infections and pneumonia.

The list was developed in collaboration with the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Tubingen, Germany, using a multi-criteria decision analysis technique vetted by a group of international experts.