Saturday, October 16, 2010

The absence of investment in new antibiotics

In the Nightly News on 30 September and 15 October 2010, Katie Couric made reference to the book Rising Plague: The Global Threat from Deadly Bacteria and Our Dwindling Arsenal to Fight Them by Dr. Brad Spellberg. The patent/investment angle wasn't fully developed on television but it's pretty simple. There's not a lot of money to be made from a drug which is taken only a week per event, as distinct from a drug which is taken for a lifetime:

The primary economic impediment is that antibiotics have a lower rate of return on investment than other classes of drugs. You make a lot more money back on your R&D investment if the drug is taken every day for the rest of the patient's life (e.g. cholesterol, hypertension, dementia, arthritis) than if it is taken for 7 days and then the patient stops because he/she is cured.

The CBS news pieces did refer to Pseudomonas, of which there has been recent news:

A team of UCLA researchers found that bacterial biofilms, structured aggregates of bacteria that live on surfaces, use appendages called type IV pili, which act as legs, to move around quickly and forage more effectively.

Bacterial biofilms cause many drug-resistant infections and impact human health in multiple ways. Cystic fibrosis, for example, is a disease in which patients die from airway bacterial biofilm infections that are resistant to antibiotics.

The "walking" occurs in the initial stages of biofilm formation, and the researchers are hopeful that this discovery will aid in finding different methods to fight the infections the bacteria, called Pseudomonas aeruginosa, cause. P. aeruginosa also causes skin, eye and gastrointestinal infections.

"Bacteria exist in two physiological states: the free-swimming, single-celled planktonic state and the surface-mounted biofilm state, a dense, structured community of cells governed by their own sociology," said Gerard Wong, a professor of bioengineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and at the California NanoSystems Institute at UCLA, in a statement.

"Bacteria in biofilms are phenotypically different from free-swimming bacteria even though they are genomically identical. As part of their adaptation to a surface and to the existence of a community, different genes are turned up and down for bacteria in biofilms, leading to drastically different behavior," he said.

[from Disease-Causing Bacteria Can Stand Up, Walk ]

The article pointed out a different approach to data analysis:

While in the past graduate students had to look at cells manually, a new technology was employed for this research, in which the team was able to track the movements of multiple cells using search engines and computer programs that allowed them to analyze data more quickly.

"This represents a big advance in the way microscopes are used," said Wong.


Alarming Uptick of Deadly Superbugs in Hospitals including:

he organism raging through Bill Shields is KPC-KLEBSIELLA. It's one of five deadly superbugs turning up in America's hospitals with alarming frequency. They're now responsible for 60 percent of all intensive care unit infections.

"What these organisms have done, by creating super-antibiotic resistance, is that they've set medicine back 70 years in time," said Brad Spellberg.



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