The Search for New Antibiotics

Experts highlight challenges and potential solutions

The Search for New Antibiotics

The discovery of “novel” antibiotics is not keeping pace with the emergence of new superbugs, in large part due to complex scientific and economic challenges that have persisted for decades. Nearly every antibiotic in use today is based on a discovery made more than 30 years ago, and not enough new treatment options are in development, particularly for patients facing increasingly drug-resistant bacterial infections. Meanwhile, superbugs continue to evolve and sooner or later will be able to defeat every antibiotic on the pharmacy shelf.

In the videos below, antibiotic innovation experts discuss the growing urgency to overcome these challenges as well as efforts to spur new antibiotic discovery and development:

The threat of antibiotic resistance is growing—fast. Each year, the number of U.S. deaths from resistance is equivalent to a jumbo jet-full of people crashing every week, notes Ankit Mahadevia of Spero Therapeutics.

Mahadevia describes the helpless feeling of seeing patients with infections that don’t respond to any available antibiotics. He also underscores the importance of recent, incremental policy changes that support antibiotic innovation and emphasizes the need to do more.

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Bacteria are constantly evolving to beat the drugs we have to fight them. That’s why developing new antibiotics is crucial. In this video, the chief scientific officer of Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals, Jacques Dumas, emphasizes the importance of antibiotic innovation and describes the challenges and level of commitment required to overcome them.

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Antibiotic resistance is complicated. We tend to think of it as a puzzle, where one piece or move can solve the problem. But it’s not that simple. Meanwhile, antibiotic-resistant bacteria pose a serious and growing threat. “These are superbugs that people die from,” says Erin Duffy, chief scientific officer of Melinta Therapeutics.

“We're not going to solve the antibiotic resistance problem with the introduction of the next new antibiotic.” We’re going to need sustained commitment, flexibility, enthusiasm and passion to really make a difference.

In this video, Erin Duffy explains how information sharing can help researchers with antibiotic discovery—and why we need a holistic approach to build a new generation of antibiotics for the future.

© The Pew Charitable Trusts

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