There have been no new antibiotics developed in 20 years. This is made all the more concerning by the fact that resistance to current antibiotics in hospitals runs between 40-60%. It takes about 15 years for a new drug to legally get to market, meaning that time is of the essence for scientists to find something new.
Drug resistant superbugs are on the rise and many have already taken the lives of thousands. Currently, 20,000 people die every year from drug resistant bacteria infections. Roger Linington, Associate Professor at UC Santa Cruz, says this drug resistance is so serious that we're on the brink of returning to an era of pre-antibiotics when death could occur from even the simplest infections.
Research and development of new antibiotics has been significantly underfunded. One reason for this is that antibiotics are not the most lucrative of drugs. Medication for a chronic illness like asthma will likely be taken by those affected everyday for the rest of their lives. From an economic perspective it's much more worthwhile to develop a drug like that than to develop a drug someone will take for 3 days every few years.
However, there is one new antibiotic called Teixobactin that's showing promise. So far it's been very effective in killing Clostridium difficile, usually referred to as C. Diff, which is a bacteria that causes severe nausea and diarrhea, and is most commonly treated by fecal transplants. Teixobactin has not been effective in killing all types of bacteria that lead to infection, but it has been successful in many trials. It's likely that over time, most bacteria will become resistant to Texicobactin as well, but scientists predict it wouldn't happen for at least 30 years, meaning it could still prove to be a very useful antibiotic, given our current crisis.
The success of Teixobactin is also a big win for the discovery of microbes in nature. Currently, divers are collecting sand at the bottom of the ocean in places like the Monterey Bay in Santa Cruz, California in hopes of finding additional microbes that might hold the answer to new antibiotics. The earth still has millions of untapped resources, and the possibilities for medical advancement are vast. Scientists are hoping to find these resources and develop new antibiotics before it's too late.
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Read more about antibiotic research and development:
Forbes: Has Antibiotic Resistance Been Solved? Not Yet.
NPR: LA Hospital: 179 Patients Exposed To Drug-Resistant 'Superbug'