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18 Jul 2024

WHO global priority pathogens list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

In 2017 the World Health Organization (WHO) published a list of antibiotic-resistant ‘priority pathogens’ which includes 12 families of bacteria that pose the greatest threat to human health. The list has been divided into three key priorities based on the urgency and need for new antibiotics.

NOTE: This list has been updated to include the new list released by the WHO on 17 May 2024

What are the most critical, priority pathogens?

According to WHO, the most critical group of all includes multidrug resistant bacteria that pose a particular threat in hospitals, nursing homes, and among patients whose care requires devices such as ventilators and blood catheters. They include AcinetobacterPseudomonas and various Enterobacteriaceae (including KlebsiellaE. coliSerratia, and Proteus). They can cause severe and often deadly infections such as bloodstream infections and pneumonia. These bacteria have become resistant to a large number of antibiotics, including carbapenems and third generation cephalosporins – the best available antibiotics for treating multi-drug resistant bacteria.

The WHO Collaborating Centre for Antimicrobial Resistance at the Doherty Institute supports countries across the Asia-Pacific to improve laboratory diagnosis to detect AMR priority pathogens, support collection and interpretation of AMR surveillance data including the use of genomic sequencing, and reporting of laboratory results to guide patient treatment, research, and public health. These activities seek to preserve the antibiotics that are currently available, and provide data that supports the development of new drugs to treat bacterial infections, or interventions to reduce the spread of these bacteria.

WHO global priority pathogens list of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (2024)

Priority 1: CRITICAL

  • Enterobacterales, carbapenem-resistant
  • Enterobacterales, third generation cephalosporin-resistant
  • Acinetobacter baumannii, carbapenem-resistant
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis, rifampicin-resistant

Priority 2: HIGH

  • Salmonella Typhi, fluoroquinolone-resistant
  • Shigella spp., fluoroquinolone-resistant
  • Enterococcus faecium, vancomycin-resistant
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa, carbapenem-resistant
  • Non-typhoidal Salmonella, fluoroquinolone-resistant
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae, third-generation cephalosporin, and/or fluoroquinolone-resistant
  • Staphylococcus aureus, methicillin-resistant

Priority 3: MEDIUM

  • Group A Streptococci, macrolide-resistant
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae, macrolide-resistant
  • Haemophilus influenzae, ampicillin-resistant
  • Group B Streptococci, penicillin-resistant

Read publication: WHO bacterial priority pathogens list, 2024: Bacterial pathogens of public health importance to guide research, development and strategies to prevent and control antimicrobial resistance