Navigating the antibiotic resistance crisis

Natasha Cowan|25th October 2018

Antimicrobial resistance claims 5,000 lives per year in the UK and 700,000 globally – one life per minute. By 2050, it is estimated more than 10 million people will die every year of antibiotic-resistant infections, a mortality rate higher than cancer. Since the discovery of penicillin in 1928, we have used antibiotics to treat infections.

This has revolutionised medicine, preventing people from dying from infected wounds, reducing risks around surgery and curing simple ailments. However, our reliance on these drugs has led to over-use. Now bacteria have evolved to resist the power of an antibiotic attack.

We are in an arms race against the superbugs and for us to win we will need to change our approach to diagnosing and treating infections. Although scientists have continued to develop new classes of antibiotics to escape the threat of antibiotic resistance – including tetracyclines in 1945 and carbapenems in 1985, along with the new classes in development today – the bacteria have systematically produced resistance against each new class. This is driven by over-prescribing, which is in turn fuelled by a lack of rapid diagnostics that can efficiently tell doctors if a disease is bacterial or not. It is clear that simply developing novel therapies, is not a sustainable approach to overcoming antibiotic resistance.

The market is complex and to overcome the challenges of resistance we need to shape the ecosystem. In the past, therapies have been prescribed broadly and empirically, however, to tackle resistance a targeted approach is needed to allow precise treatment decisions to be made by physicians and prevent the over-use of innovative new antibiotic classes.

This new way of treating patients involves a complex array of stakeholders and will require significant behaviour change, new technology and new processes. Blue Latitude Health speaks to Tara DeBoer, PhD, Postdoctoral Researcher at UC Berkeley and CEO of BioAmp Diagnostics, to better undestand the physicians’ journey, their pain points and barriers, and how a new tool is helping to fuel more precise prescribing practices.

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