“If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine” – Prime Minister David Cameron
The growing challenge of antibiotic resistance has begun to develop a commanding presence in global headlines. An estimated 25,000 people a year are killed by resistant bacteria in the EU. If nothing is done to halt its progression, it is estimated that by 2050, drug resistant infections will be responsible for the deaths of over 10 million people across the globe – more than cancer – at a cost of up to $100 trillion.
Amidst the doom and gloom, a paper published in Nature at the beginning of the year has provided a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel – a new antibiotic. Isolated from bacteria which grow in soil, the compound, named teixobactin, is the first new antibiotic discovered since 1987. Moreover, the bacteria targeted by teixobactin have failed to develop resistance and research suggests it could take up to 30 years for them to do so.
And the good news doesn’t end there. The majority of today’s antibiotics were isolated from soil bacteria, which produce the compounds to inhibit other microbes and thereby provide them with a survival advantage. However, these microbes are notoriously tricky to grow in the lab. The novel method developed by the scientists to cultivate the bacteria and isolate the antibiotic could potentially lead to the discovery of many more.
However (and here comes the but…), whilst the discovery remains a significant one, it will not solve the vast worldwide problem that antibiotic resistance has become. The compound must still pass through numerous tests before it can be considered for use in humans, and even then is only proven to be effective on a subset of bacteria (gram-positive). So whilst it’s important we celebrate this good news, we are still at the foot of the mountain that is the challenge of drug resistance.
Tackling resistant bacteria has become a global priority, and the BIA is delighted to have new charity Antibiotic Research UK (ANTRUK) as our supported charity for 2015. Launched last summer, ANTRUK is the first charity in the world dedicated to combating antibiotic resistant bacteria. Over the next five years, the charity aims to raise enough money to bring at least one new antibiotic therapy to market, with research to be carried out by UK universities and companies. This focus matches the BIA’s own work on the important issue of antimicrobial resistance. In 2014 we established a dedicated working group on the issue and will continue our international advocacy on the matter at BIO in the USA this summer. This new partnership demonstrates the commitment of the UK in the fight against antibiotic resistance.
By being our supported charity in 2015, we hope that ANTRUK will not only benefit from fundraising activities, but also from a partnership with us which will raise the profile of this fledgling charity. The sector needs a charity partner in this space, so alongside fundraising activities, we want to help ANTRUK develop through our network and connections. A number of BIA member companies are actively working in the field, including RedX Pharma, Discuva, Blueberry Therapeutics and Absynth. The partnership has mutual benefit and we look forward to working with them at events throughout the year – the first of which being our annual Gala Dinner, taking place this Thursday. The fight against antibiotic resistance is global challenge, and the UK is ready to lead the charge.
To find out more about Antibiotic Research UK, visit www.antibioticresearch.org.uk