Fighting antibiotic resistance

Antibiotic resistant infections are predicted to lead to 10 million deaths per year globally by 2050 at a cost of up to $100 trillion to the world economy. In the UK at least 5,000 people per year die from resistant infections.

Now new research by Antibiotic Research UK (ANTRUK), the world’s first charity created to develop new antibiotics in the fight against superbugs, has found Antibiotic Resistance Breakers (ARBs) in its first major lab research programme.

The research, conducted under contract in the UK, Germany and France is a first step towards the charity’s goal of bringing one new antibiotic therapy into clinical use by the early 2020s.

Key findings include:

* ANTRUK has investigated ways to break  resistance to the five main antibiotic classes including last resort carbapenems and polymyxins

* More than 1,500 drugs screened against four species of antibiotic resistant Gram-negative bacteria viz. E coli, K pneumoniae, P aeruginosa and A baumanii – these bacteria are responsible for sepsis, pneumonia, blood, skin and urinary tract infections and gut infections

* ANTRUK found that some drugs from the pharmacopoeia drug library in combination with antibiotics can break antibiotic resistance, making the antibiotic work again

* Also, a number of antibiotics when used in combination with another antibiotic can break resistance

* All these Antibiotic Resistance Breakers identified are now being progressed to in depth screening.

Professor Colin Garner, chief executive of Antibiotic Research UK says: “We see the findings as hugely encouraging, endorsing as they do the ARB concept. The attraction of this approach is that because we are examining existing drugs, then positive findings can be quickly taken into the clinic without expensive safety testing. We have chosen to examine Gram-negative bacteria, which includes ESBL E.coli as well other bacteria causing blood, urinary tract and lung infections, as these are the most difficult to treat and are where the incidence of resistance is rising. The charity needs to raise £550,000 in 2017 to fund the next phase of its research, where it will progress the leads that it has identified and Christmas would be a good time to help us.”

Dr David Brown, chair of the charity’s Science Committee says: “These results provide encouragement that we can save some of our most important antibiotics from resistance. When we add a second drug alongside the antibiotics which do not work anymore, the resistant bacteria once again become susceptible to our best antibiotics which can now kill the bacteria. We will select the best combinations and then progress them towards tests in humans. And we have more ideas worthy of testing during 2017. We can save our essential antibiotics.”

In a recent scientific paper by Professor Laura Piddock and her colleague Eilis Bragginton from the University of Birmingham, they estimated that just £95 million was spent on antibiotic research (0.7% of all UK medical research funding). This compares with £500 million spent annually on cancer research and a total annual expenditure on medical research of £1.4 billion. 

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