WHO ranks world's 12 most dangerous superbugs

The World Health Organization on Monday identified 12 families of bacteria that serve as the greatest threats to human health. The agency expressed an urgent need for drugmakers to develop new antibiotics to fight the bacterial threats, reports STAT.

Here are six things to know.

1. The 12 bacteria on the list were chosen based on their level of drug resistance, the number of deaths they cause, the frequency with which they infect people outside of hospitals and the burden they place on healthcare systems, said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, the WHO's assistant director-general for health systems and innovation.

2. The list groups bacteria into three categories — critical, high and medium — to identify the priority of need for new antibiotics.

"Antibiotic resistance is growing and we are 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," Dr. Kieny told STAT. "The pipeline is practically dry."

3. The international team of experts who developed the list encouraged researchers and drugmakers to shift efforts toward developing antibiotics using Gram negative bacteria. Many drug companies try to create new antibiotics for Gram positive bacteria, possibly because they are easier and cheaper to develop, said Dr. Nicola Magrini, a scientist at the WHO's department of innovation, access and use of essential medicines.

4. Three families of bacteria hold a critical designation on the list: Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Enterobacteriaceae. These pathogens cause severe infections and high mortality in hospital patients, according to Dr. Kieny. While they are not as common as other drug-resistant infections, they create large healthcare costs in terms of resources needed to treat infected patients and lives lost, according to the report.

5. Six strains of bacteria were listed as high priority for new antibiotics: Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Helicobacter pylori, Campylobacter spp., Salmonellae and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This group represents bacteria that cause a large amount of infections in normally healthy individuals, reports STAT.

6. The list names three final bacteria as a medium priority for new treatments: Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, Shigella spp. These bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to available drugs, according to the report.

To view the full list, click here.

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