Serious bacterial infections in hospitalized adults

Serious bacterial infections are among the major causes of death for people in hospitals. At any given time, more than 1.4 million people have developed a hospital infection. Bacteria can enter the body through wounds and surgery sites, ventilators and catheters, leading to pneumonia, urinary tract, abdominal and bloodstream infections.

In high-income countries, 7% of all hospitalized people will contract some form of infection, including one in three people in intensive care units. In low- and middle-income countries this figure rises to at least 10% of hospitalized people, and up to half of people in intensive care units.

The impact of drug-resistant infections is often worst in hospitals, because they are high-risk environments for the spread of infections. This is particularly the case for infections caused by drug-resistant Gram-negative bacteria. The threat of drug resistance is more severe in low and middle-income countries, where healthcare facilities can face constraints on hygiene and sanitation, including access to sterilizing equipment. The Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) is developing new treatments for the most resistant Gram-negative infections

New treatments for Gram-negative bacteria

Most bacteria are classified as Gram-positive or Gram-negative based on their cell walls. Gram-positive bacteria are easier to kill as their thick outer layer, called the peptidoglycan, absorbs antibiotics more easily. Gram-negative bacteria are covered in a thin peptidoglycan and an outer membrane, which is harder for antibiotics to penetrate. This barrier, and other mechanisms, also means they are better at developing resistance to drugs designed to defeat them.

GARDP is focused on two families of these Gram-negative bacteria that have been identified by the World Health Organization as priority pathogens requiring new treatments and among the greatest threats to health: multi-drug resistant Acinetobacter baumannii and Enterobacteriaceae.

“New antibiotics targeting the WHO priority list of pathogens will help to reduce deaths due to resistant infections around the world. Waiting any longer will cause further public health problems and dramatically impact on patient care.”

– Prof Evelina Tacconelli, Head of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Tübingen

The cost of hospital infections

Serious bacterial infections lead to longer hospital stays, long-term disability and more preventable deaths. In Europe alone, hospital infections cause 16 million extra-days of hospital stay and 37,000 deaths every year. Hospital infections also hurt economic growth, costing the European economy €7 billion and US economy $6.5 billion annually. In low- and middle-income countries, where less data is available, indicators suggest the financial impact is even more severe. Developing new treatments to fight hospital infections frees up more money to invest in healthcare and fuels economic development.

Learn about GARDP’s discovery and exploratory research programme.

Discovery & exploratory research
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