You know all those dang bacteria in your body, living there without permission, without even one of the 3.9 x 1013 of them offering to contribute to rent? Turns out about 1 in 9 of those freeloaders can neutralize gemcitabine, a pancreatic cancer drug, before it gets to work on cancer cells. While that means killing those bacteria results in a non-inhibited drug delivery, it’s not a great solution. Not only do some cancer drugs depend on the presence of other, benign microbes in your body, but using antibiotics could lead to resistance in those bacteria. And the only thing worse than bacteria-filled tumors are antibiotic-resistant bacteria-filled tumors. Hey, at least now we know what the problem is.
Here’s the scenario: Scientist A says, “We have to do something about these superbugs before they kill us all!” Scientist B responds, looking up from a Spiderman comic, “Too bad we can’t just design some super-spiders to fight them with.” And that’s where it all started. Australian researcher Sónia Troeira Henriques and her team published a study wherein they redesigned a peptide from a Brazilian spider and found that their work increased the molecule’s antimicrobial and anticancer properties. Innovators have been looking for alternatives to the existing field of antibiotics, which are becoming dangerously ineffective at combating increasingly resistant bacteria. Earlier this year, the WHO released their list of “priority pathogens” that we really need to get some stuff in the pipeline for.
Slight paraphrase, but the point holds. This week, WHO released its rapidly (tragically) expanding list of “super-bugs”—drug-resistant bacteria that have stopped responding to antibiotics. For some context, these strains resulted in more than 50,000 fatalities last year. The older and infirmed are usually at greatest risk, but five-alarm bells are sounding from new findings that pediatric infection has increased sevenfold within the decade. With our last lines of antibiotic defense now losing efficacy, the fix comes down to R&D. However, new antibiotic discoveries are limited after 70 years of research, and…pharma doesn’t get huge ROIs from antibiotic research. But Pharma, hear us at InsightCity—if anyone is saving the day, and all of humanity—it will be you.
The FDA’s annual summary on “antimicrobials sold or distributed for use in food-producing animals” reported a 1 percent rise in sales from 2014 to 2015. Now, if your company produces those antimicrobials, you might be miffed at such a small rise. On the other hand, if you don’t work for one of those companies, that rise is great because… Oh wait, never mind, it sucks more for you. Why? Well, the FDA puts this report out as part of their initiative for food producers to stop using so many antimicrobials, which is important because the CDC attributes 1 in 5 antibiotic resistant infections to germs from food and animals. So until we see a decrease in those sales, continue with your superbug preparations.
With flu season in full swing and US wildfires throwing ash and smoke everywhere, you would be forgiven for thinking the air around you has reached capacity for ways to make you sick. You would be wrong, though. Swedish researchers conducted a study on various environments to compare the presence of antibiotic resistant genes in each. They found the most diverse and abundant amounts in environments with industrial antibiotic pollution (no surprise there) as well as in the good old-fashioned type of air pollution present in Beijing. They even found genes in those environments that encode resistance to carbapenems, considered the last line of antibiotic defense. The scientists are planning more research into how transmission works through air pollution, because this stuff is scary.