What is antibiotic resistance and why should we care about it?

There is urgent medical need for new treatments against life-threatening bacterial infections because of the emergence of resistant strains against all existing antibiotics. Many life-saving antibiotics have lost their effectiveness due to the evolution of multi-drug resistant bacteria. 

“A growing list of infections, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, blood poisoning and gonorrhea are becoming harder, and sometimes impossible, to treat as antibiotics become less effective” (WHO Factsheet)

What is the difference between antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance is a broader term, encompassing resistance to drugs to treat infections caused by other microbes as well, such as parasites (e.g. malaria), viruses (e.g. HIV) and fungi (e.g. Candida). 

In contrast, antibiotic resistance refers specifically to the resistance to antibiotics that occurs in common bacteria that cause infections.

The world is on the brink of losing these miracle drugs.

Dr. Chan, Director General WHO

The market

Development of anti-infectives enjoys the highest success rate in drug development because animal data are more predictive of human efficacy and safety than in any other indication. The global antibacterial market is one of the biggest and accounted for sales of $43.9 billion in 2010.

The nosocomial (hospital acquired infections) segment is expected to dominate the market in the near term. Examples of marketed drugs showing activity against multiple drug-resistant bacterial strains show the potential for BioVersys’ compounds: Daptomycin (trade name Cubicin, introduced 2003 by Cubist) had sales of US$ 860 million in 2012, Linezolid (trade name Zyvox, introduced 2000 by Pfizer) US$ 1.35 billion and Tigecycline (trade name Tygacil, introduced 2005 by Pfizer) US$ 335 million. BioVersys estimates that each of its compounds has the potential to generate similar peak sales.

Present situation

The WHO’s 2014 report on global surveillance of antimicrobial resistance revealed that antibiotic resistance is no longer a prediction for the future; it is happening right now all around the world, and is putting at risk the ability to treat common infections in the community and hospitals. Without urgent and coordinated action, the world is heading towards a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries, which have been treatable for decades, can once again kill. Resistance against currently available antibiotics is a major concern for human health as acknowledged by the WHO (World Health Organization). In its recently released report on antimicrobial resistance (to be found HERE), the WHO states that:

"A post-antibiotic era - in which common infections and minor injuries can kill - far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st century."

The Medical Need

The pharmaceutical industry is not nearly productive enough to guarantee a sufficient number of new innovative antibiotics. The World Health Organization WHO has identified antimicrobial resistance as one of the three greatest threats to human health. As can be seen in the following figure, there have been no new classes of antibiotics discovered during over the last 30 years.

The Discovery Void. Adapted from L. Silver (Clin Microbiol Rev, 2011)

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