Ever since the discovery of penicillin in 1929 and its use as a drug in the early 1940s, antibiotics have helped save hundreds of millions of lives. These ‘miracle drugs’ not only cure life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia and sepsis but enable physicians to perform high- risk medical procedures such as hip and knee replacements and cancer chemotherapy. Without antibiotics, health practitioners would not be able to appropriately care for our most vulnerable populations such as the elderly, immune-compromised, or infants that are born preterm. However, the rapid emergence of drug-resistant pathogens threaten to reverse the progress that modern medicine has made.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a rapidly growing problem of substantial global severity. In 2016, top UK government advisor Lord Jim O’Neill estimated that more than 700,000 people die each year from infections related to drug resistance and that this number will exponentially rise to include an additional 50 million deaths by the year 2050 if no new solutions are found*. In addition to the devastating health consequences of AMR, associated medical costs are predicted to rise to a staggering USD 100 trillion in as little as 30 years*. Recognizing the quickly advancing and perilous nature of AMR, governments around the world are mobilizing to reduce its devastation to our health and economy.
Solutions to the AMR problem include the discovery of novel therapeutics (such as new antibiotics, antibiotic adjuvants, drugs that block resistance, and vaccines that prevent disease), the development of improved diagnostic strategies for the rapid identification of superbugs, and the more careful management of our existing drugs. Global innovators are addressing all of these strategies in an effort to combat the AMR crisis; however, its successful mitigation requires a disciplined, strategic, and interdisciplinary approach that emphasizes understanding, innovation, and collaboration throughout all levels of our global community.
*O’Neill, J. (2016) Tackling Drug-Resistance Infections Globally: Final Report and Recommendations, Wellcome Trust & HM Government.