Antimicrobial resistance

a health challenge of the 21st century

Antibiotic resistance is a natural phenomenon amplified by inappropriate uses

Antimicrobial resistance is the phenomenon whereby bacteria exposed to the same antibiotic for a prolonged period of time mutate and become resistant, which makes their control, difficult, if not impossible, with current treatments.

This phenomenon stems from the process of natural selection. From the discovery of the first antibiotics, Alexander Fleming, discoverer of penicillin, had already revealed this major risk to their effectiveness for health in the long term. However, it has been seriously amplified by an excessive and inconsiderate use of antibiotics for 50 years, in both human and animal health. It is estimated, for example, that about 80% of the antibiotics sold in the United  States are destined for animal husbandry.

The first bacteria resistant to antibiotics appeared as early as the 1960s, very soon after the first treatments were marketed. Since then, antibiotic-resistant bacteria have been multiplying. Many bacteria that cause serious infections in humans, such as Salmonella, have already developed resistance to the most common antibiotics.

A global challenge

The development of antibiotic resistance is, according to international organizations and governments, one of the major health challenges of the 21st century. In France, this phenomenon kills 12 500 people each year[1], three times more than road accidents.

 

A major health challenge

Awareness is increasing

In May 2016, the UK government released a report[2] that estimates the number of annual deaths related to antimicrobial resistance by 2050 to 10 million.

That is more than the 8.2 million deaths caused by cancer today.

In September 2016, the UN General Assembly was called upon to address this health challenge as a "fundamental threat" to the future of the planet[3]. It is extremely rare for the GA to put a health-related question on its agenda (4th time since its creation).

In February 2017, the WHO published a list of 12 families of bacteria for which it is urgent to develop new antibiotics.[4].

Discovering new treatments is essential

To meet the challenge of bacterial resistance, the transformation of consumer uses will not suffice.

For two decades now, Europe has launched a vast plan of action to combat the development of resistance. Based essentially on prevention (prohibition of the use of antibiotics as a growth factor for animal husbandry, sensitization campaigns for human health, etc.), this approach has significantly reduced the consumption of antibiotics.

Globally, the situation is very different, the global consumption of antibiotics increased by 65% between 2000 and 2015[5], mainly because of its growth in emerging countries. The latter is both hopeful, many people now having access to treatments for simple illnesses, and a factor of the major increase in resistance.

Traditional pharmaceutical research is inefficient

Pharmaceutical research on antibiotics is globally undeveloped. Large laboratories have invested little in this area, which is unattractive financially. The new molecules placed on the market are generally combinations or derivatives of known molecules.

Few new treatments in half a century[6] 

The importance of the challenge today benefits from a commitment of the public authorities and deserves a radical innovation approach, the only one capable of allowing the emergence of new and effective treatments. DEINOVE's commitment focuses its efforts on the research and development of new antibiotics, a field still little explored.

 

[1] "Tous ensemble, sauvons les antibiotiques," report released in 2015.

[2] "Tackling drug-resistant infections globally", report by former British Secretary of Commerce Jim O'Neill.

[3] http://www.who.int/fr/news-room/detail/21-09-2016-at-un-global-leaders-c...

[4] http://www.who.int/fr/news-room/detail/27-02-2017-who-publishes-list-of-...

[5] Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – March 2018

[6] "Les antibiotiques, c’est fini ?", article published on the LEEM website in November 2015.