World Health Organization Experts Compiled a List of the Most Aggressive Superbugs


Modern medicine took a step back from drug-resistant pathogens. Now, health experts are coming at superbugs from anew angle.

After a woman lost her life in Nevada because of an incurable infection caused by a superbug last year, only adding to the already large number of patients who lost their lives to pathogens resilient to medication, World Health Organization officials have compiled a list of the most aggressive superbugs for the first time in modern medicine history. The pathogens were prioritized in three main categories, based on the level of threat they pose to the population.

Health experts at WHO say this is an effort to raise awareness on drug-resistant superbugs and to prompt public research and drug companies to make it a priority to collaborate in order to design new medication to stop these pathogens from claiming, even more, lives in the future. Even more so, as Antimicrobial Resistance’s senior technical officer with WHO in Geneva, Dr. Elizabeth Tayler says coming up with a new antibiotic could take up to a decade.

The list is as follows:


The top priority superbugs to be analyzed is a family of three multidrug-resistant bacteria, E. coli included, that oftentimes prove fatal for those admitted to nursing homes and hospitals. According to Dr. Tayler, these pathogens are gut bacteria, found in the intestinal tract following fecal contamination of food and water sources or unsterilized operating room equipment that are highly transmittable.

Once in the bloodstream, health experts say these superbugs cause life-threatening infections, pneumonia, and various open wound infections that are very hard to treat.

High Priority

While the first category referred to bacteria, high priority category is composed of multidrug-resistant microbes, including salmonella, gonorrhea, and staph infections. Health experts say they are almost powerless against them, as these pathogens spread incredibly fast and easily and set the stage for severe health conditions.


The last category includes a penicillin-resistant and flu bug streptococcus bacteria. Even though these pathogens show significant resistance to modern day treatments, health experts say they are listed under “medium” because there are currently several other ways to deterring them, including immunization. However, Dr. Tayler says they are not to be taken lightly, as these superbugs still raise difficulties for physicians and are perfectly capable of killing their host, nonetheless.

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