Pharma & drug development

Antibiotic adjacent: the alternatives tackling AMR

Antimicrobial resistance has long been hailed as the greatest threat that the medical industry will face over the coming years. To combat this, researchers are testing potential alternatives to traditional antibiotics, including ‘biological antibiotics’ involving human monoclonal antibodies. Abi Millar explores innovative research projects that are searching for viable alternatives to antibiotics.

he past century, antimicrobials like penicillin have been a key pillar of public health systems, turning once dangerous infections into curable conditions. Used to prevent post-operative infections, treat sepsis and keep people alive throughout routine cancer care, they have been touted as adding 20 years onto global life expectancy.

It’s no wonder, then, that the World Health Organization lists antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as among the top ten global public health threats facing humanity. Already, many antibiotics are losing efficacy, and this grim trend shows no sign of abating. 

In 2018, half a million people suffered from multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, which could not be treated with the two most powerful medications. Drug-resistant malaria may not be far behind. By 2050, AMR could contribute to ten million deaths every year, with lower income countries paying the heaviest price. 

Clearly, the over-prescription of antibiotics will have to stop if we want to make headway in addressing AMR. In the US alone, doctors write 47 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions every year – and that is not to mention their overuse in farm animals, which constitutes around 80% of total usage in some countries. 

This is only one piece of the puzzle, however, and there is also work to be done in terms of infection surveillance, infection prevention and diagnostics. 

Read the rest of this article in the May 2021 edition of Pharma Technology Focus

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