In Microbiology, News & Views

Infections caused by bacteria that are resistant to commonly used antibiotics are now a well-recognised public health problem. In February this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) produced its first ever list of drug-resistant bacterial pathogens according to its assessment of how critical the threat is posed by these bacteria. WHO is responsible for addressing the growing problem of difficult to treat infections and the production of this list is a contribution intended to focus attention in areas like research and development of new antibiotics. The WHO list is divided into three categories according to the urgency of need for new antibiotics: critical, high and medium priority.

The most critical group of bacteria poses a particular threat in hospitals, nursing homes, and among patients whose care requires devices such as ventilators and blood catheters. The bacteria include AcinetobacterPseudomonas and various Enterobacteriaceae. They can cause severe, sometimes deadly, infections like septicaemia and pneumonia. The second and third tiers in the list – the high and medium priority categories – contain other increasingly drug-resistant bacteria that cause more common diseases such as gonorrhoea and food poisoning.


WHO’s categorisation of superbugs is as follows:

Priority 1: Critical

  1. Acinetobacter baumannii, carbapenem-resistant
  2. Pseudomonas aeruginosa, carbapenem-resistant
  3. Enterobacteriaceae, carbapenem-resistant, ESBL-producing

Priority 2: High

  1. Enterococcus faecium, vancomycin-resistant
  2. Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant, vancomycin-intermediate and resistant
  3. Helicobacter pylori, clarithromycin-resistant
  4. Campylobacter, fluoroquinolone-resistant
  5. Salmonellae, fluoroquinolone-resistant
  6. Neisseria gonorrhoeae, cephalosporin-resistant, fluoroquinolone-resistant

Priority 3: Medium

  1. Streptococcus pneumoniae, penicillin-non-susceptible
  2. Haemophilus influenzae, ampicillin-resistant
  3. Shigella, fluoroquinolone-resistant


Whilst development of new antibiotics inevitably heads the list of responses to superbugs, medical organisations and WHO recognise the need for a multifaceted response to effectively challenge the very real threat of superbugs. New antibiotics alone cannot solve the problem; there must also be better procedures in place to prevent infections from occurring.

One future measure to be considered is antimicrobial technology.

When manufactured into products, BioCote® Antimicrobial Technology provides around-the-clock protection against microbes, including antibiotic resistant MRSA and E. coli. The utilisation of BioCote® protected surfaces- in conjunction with thorough handwashing practices and regular cleaning routines- minimises the risk of cross-contamination, ultimately making an environment more hygienic. For more information, contact a member of the team today on +44 (0) 2477 712 489.


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