Countries brace for “silent tsunami” of antibiotic-resistant infections
Countries brace for ‘silent tsunami’ of antibiotic-resistant infections
When drugmaker AstraZeneca closed down its research and development center in Bangalore six years ago, some of the local scientists managed to find new jobs at a nearby biotech start-up. Since then, they have been working to tackle a problem that is causing concern among doctors in India and around the world: the human body’s increasing resistance to antibiotics.
Larger companies like AstraZeneca favor prioritizing more lucrative lines of drug development and have sold off rights to their existing antibiotics. Smaller companies like Bugworks are left trying to fill the gap of producing new antibiotics to which humans are less resistant.
“This is a silent tsunami,” says the chief executive of Bugworks Anand Anandkumar. “We have the biggest superbug problem. In three to five years, many Indian hospitals will delay surgery unless it’s absolutely life-threatening. If this isn’t a pandemic, what is it?”
One fundamental driver is misuse.
Counterfeit and poor quality medicines provide insufficient active ingredients to kill an infection, fuelling the development of resistant bacterial strains.
Money to stimulate new antibiotics will not be sufficient.
Financial incentives will be needed to develop new diagnostics that can more rapidly, reliably, and cheaply distinguish whether and which drugs are required. Additionally, new practices to promote better “stewardship” by health systems to ensure existing treatments are used more appropriately.
Jim O’Neill, who led an influential review of antimicrobial resistance, argues that just as regulators have started to scrutinize the financial risks of climate change to banks, the IMF should turn its attention to the dangers to countries from drug resistance.“Just as regulators have started to scrutinize the financial risks of climate change to banks, the IMF should turn its attention to the dangers to countries from drug resistance.”
Full report: Financial Times, 19 November 2020