Antibiotic resistant ‘superbugs’ are on the increase worldwide
Monday, 17 September 2012
Seventy years ago, the discovery of antibiotics revolutionized the treatment of bacterial infections and saved millions of lives. It seemed the battle was over. But the bacteria are fighting back – constantly evolving and mutating in a bid to survive - and many are successfully developing resistance to previously effective antibiotics.
This threatens to put public health at serious risk worldwide. For example, hospital-acquired infection causes around 90,000 deaths in the US and 25,000 deaths in Europe each year. In China, over 5 % of hospital patients contract hospital-acquired infections and face one of the highest rates of antibiotic resistance in the world. The highest levels of resistance are in developing countries. A particular threat is multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, which affects half a million people annually, and is becoming increasingly difficult to control. In Europe alone, anti-microbial resistance results in related costs of over €1.5 billion in healthcare expenses and productivity losses.
Finding new antibiotics that will be effective against ‘super bugs’ is not impossible, but it’s a complex and challenging area of research.
What are we doing to help?
We are one of the few large pharmaceutical companies that have continued to invest in anti-bacterial research in recent decades. We have global capabilities in bacterial genomics and biochemistry and three antibiotics in our range of medicines, including a leading treatment for hospital-acquired infection. Our ongoing research is focused on new treatments for serious bacterial infections, viral infections and diseases of the developing world, as well as diagnostics and the development of novel vaccines. We have scientists at our laboratories in Boston, US and Bangalore, India dedicated to infectious disease research.
Working in partnership
No single company can meet all the challenges alone. Alongside our own efforts, we work with others in the search for the next generation of antibiotics. For example, our two-year collaboration with the Broad Institute, announced in September 2012, combines our unique resources and strong histories in innovation to accelerate successful research. Broad is working to identify potential new anti-bacterial and anti-viral targets from their chemical library of over 100,000 compounds. We will then help to develop any that show promise as potential new treatments.
Zinforo™ is a newly approved antibiotic developed and co-commercialised in collaboration with Forest Laboratories Inc*. An intravenous cephalosporin, Zinforo is used for the treatment of adult patients with complicated skin and soft tissue infections or community-acquired pneumonia. In particular, it is active against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Connecting with others
We also work in private and public sector partnerships to address key barriers to the development of effective antibiotics. Public-private sector partnerships can be challenging and require us to be open about the different drivers and perspectives we bring, but together we can make a greater contribution to reaching our common goal – improved health. One such collaboration that we are involved in is NewDrugs4BadBugs, part of the Innovative Medicines Initiative. This is a pioneering approach to antibiotic research in Europe that brings biopharmaceutical companies together with public partners to share data, knowledge and resources in a combined effort to tackle the rising threat from antibiotic resistance.
* In 2009, Forest Laboratories, Inc. granted AstraZeneca exclusive commercial rights and co-exclusive development rights for ceftaroline fosamil worldwide, excluding US, Canada and Japan. On 28 August 2012 the European Commission granted marketing authorisation to AstraZeneca’s ZinforoTM *