During the 20th century the discovery and development of antibiotics revolutionized medicine. The timeline above shows when major antibiotics were developed during the past 70 years. The development of new antibiotics peaked during the 1960’s and has dramatically fallen off since then. The problem is that bacteria can evolve. Really fast (over a matter of hours). And when bacteria are exposed to an antibiotic some of them will adapt to become resistant to the drug. This means that we need to continue to develop new antibiotics to stay one step ahead of bacterial evolution.
These days, the development of antibiotics is a risky and often unprofitable endeavor for pharmaceutical companies. Even though we now know more about how antibiotics work and how to target bacteria than ever before, there is very little investment in the development of new antibiotics. In response to this potential medical crisis the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) has recently launched a campaign called “Bad Bugs Need Drugs, 10 New Antibiotics by 2020.”