Despite the desperate need for new antibiotics to combat increasingly deadly drug-resistant bacteria, the Food and Drug Administration has approved only two new systemic antibiotics since 2009. In a report, the Infectious Diseases Society of America identified only seven drugs in development for the treatment of infections caused by multidrug-resistant, gram-negative bacilli. GNB, which include what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention labeled "nightmare bacteria" — carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae — represent the most pressing need. The report noted that there is no guarantee that any of the drugs in development to treat GNB will receive FDA approval and none will work against today's most worrisome bugs.

The antibiotic pipeline, meanwhile, is drawing from fewer sources. IDSA reports that the number of pharmaceutical companies investing in antibiotic research and development has plummeted. Pharma companies typically put R&D resources into the development of chronic disease drugs, which provide greater financial rewards, partly because they are intended to be taken for a longer period of time. Antibiotics, which are meant to be taken for shorter courses, can't compete.

Finally, IDSA found that only four large multinational companies remain in antibiotic R&D, and one of them, AstraZeneca, which has two of the seven drugs in development, plans to reduce investments in antibiotics.

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