Antibiotics were discovered in the 1930s and transformed medical care. However, we are now involved in serious global public health crises represented by relentlessly rising antimicrobial resistance coupled with the withdrawal of pharmaceutical companies from the antimicrobial market. Without effective antimicrobials for the resistant organisms we are seeing a huge increase in morbidity and mortality from infections. The problem of antimicrobial resistance is of such global proportions that the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it as the focus for World Health Day (April 7) in 2011.

The convergence of the overuse and misuse of antibiotics, the genetic agility of bacteria, the acquisition of resistant bacterial infections in both community and hospital settings, and a market failure in antimicrobial drug development has resulted in an enormous global public health concern regarding antimicrobial resistance. Almost all of the major pharmaceutical companies have withdrawn from antimicrobial research and development over the last 20 years. The dwindling antimicrobial pipeline and the increase in antimicrobial resistant organisms is alarming as it presents a risk for healthcare and community acquired infections and also security threats from pandemics and bioterrorism.