BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

May 23, 2016

Research Roundup: antimicrobial resistance, microbiomes, and more

Senior Program Assistant
GHTC

Last week, the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, commissioned by United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron, released its final report, Tackling Drug-Resistant Infections Globally: final report and recommendations. The report details ten recommendations and calls for funding and incentive mechanisms to spur research and development (R&D) for new antibiotics, rapid diagnostic tests, and preventative vaccines. The research, development, and use of new and existing vaccines could limit the dependence on antimicrobials, while rapid diagnostic tests preclude unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions. To stimulate antimicrobial R&D, the report calls for the creation of a global innovation fund to support basic research and market-entry rewards to incentivize pharmaceutical companies to bring new antibiotics to market. The report calls for US$2 billion over five years for the fund, and the United Kingdom and Chinese governments have each pledged $72 million for these efforts. While new antibiotics are critical to combatting the spread of antimicrobial resistance, their use must be restricted and market limited to prevent new drug-resistant infections. Consequently, the report calls for market-entry rewards of $0.8 to $1.3 billion to incentivize the development of new antibiotics. While implementing the report’s recommendations would cost $40 billion over the next decade, current trends suggest that drug-resistant infections will cost the global economy $100 trillion between now and 2050.

The White House announced last week the establishment of the National Microbiome Initiative to catalyze and fund research on microbiomes, develop new platforms for curating and sharing microbiome data, and to build the microbiome workforce through training and educational opportunities. The Initiative will be launched with an investment of $121 million from five federal agencies as well as funding from more than 100 private organizations including $100 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. A microbiome is the makeup of microorganisms (i.e., bacteria) in a given ecosystem. While the human microbiome is the most well-known, the purview of the Initiative goes much farther, and will even support microbiome research in space.

Researchers in Ireland have created a coating that can be applied to surfaces such as smartphones, door knobs, or countertops which kills 99.99 percent of strains of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Escherichia coli (E. Coli), and Trichophyton rubrum. MRSA and E. Coli spread rapidly within hospitals (MRSA can survive on surfaces for up to five months) and T. rubrum—which causes athlete’s foot and other fungal infections—is primarily transmitted via surfaces or objects (i.e., damp floors, towels). The coating is comprised of titanium oxide, fluoride, and copper and is sprayed and baked onto a surface, after which it becomes indiscernible to the eye. The bacteria and fungi are not able to spread on the coating and die within 24 hours. The team, led by Dr. Suresh Pillai of the Institute of Technology, Sligo, believes the coating could be used in hospitals and laboratories but also on smartphones, ATMs, and even food packaging.

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