The potentially disastrous consequences of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) were highlighted at the recent World Economic Forum Meeting 2024. Antibiotic resistance is a rapidly growing global public health crisis that threatens the future of modern medicine and human welfare. Alarming levels of multidrug-resistant (MDR) microbes are being reported worldwide, making certain infections more difficult and sometimes impossible to treat. AMR is now the third leading cause of death around the globe. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections are responsible for almost 1.3 million global deaths, while contributing to about five million deaths per year. Concerningly, no major breakthroughs have been made in the space in over 50 years. While more advanced antibiotics have been developed, the degree of innovation has been inadequate in preventing the spread of AMR, leaving the world in a highly vulnerable position.

There is a massive unmet need for the innovative development of alternative therapies with efficacy against MDRs. Traditional and next-generation antibiotics have proven incapable of alleviating the long-term threat of AMR. Resistant strains of bacteria have been documented within one year of many new antibiotic drug launches. For example, daptomycin, the standard of care for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacteremia, was approved in 2003. Strains of daptomycin-resistant MRSA emerged in 2004. More recently in 2015, ceftazidime-avibactam entered the market to treat complicated intra-abdominal infections caused by Klebsiella pneumoniae. During the same year in 2015, strains of ceftazidime-avibactam-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae carbapenemase (KPC)-producing K. pneumoniae (KPC-KP) were documented. This demonstrates the urgent need for non-traditional antibiotic treatment options.

Targeting bacterial virulence, stem cell antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), antimicrobial photodynamic therapy (photodisinfection), bacteriophages, non-antibiotic immunomodulating therapies and other novel drugs are being explored as potential treatments for drug-resistant infections. Ondine Biomedical has shown that photodisinfection, a non-biological treatment which does not generate resistance, is a highly effective alternative to antibiotics in treating multi-drug resistant bacterial infections. Ondine’s patented technology, Steriwave®, which uses light energy to activate a photoactive agent which kills bacterial cells, is currently approved in Canada, Ireland, Spain, Mexico, and the UK. The company has revised its Phase III clinical trial design to facilitate FDA approval for the use of Steriwave in the US market against a broad range of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), including surgical site infections (SSIs), bloodstream infections and types of pneumonia.

Health officials are increasingly warning that the world is heading towards a “post-antibiotic era”, where common infections that are easily treated today may become deadly again. These developments highlight the global efforts to address AMR through funding, research, and collaboration. However, it is crucial to recognize that the burden of AMR remains extremely high. Innovation in alternative drug development must outpace the emergence of multi-drug-resistant pathogens to combat this silent pandemic.

 

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