Antibiotic resistance has become a growing threat around the world and is expected to lead to 10 million deaths annually by 2050. There’s a misconception about how resistance develops – it develops in microbes, not individual people, meaning even if you don’t use antibiotics, you’re still susceptible to coming across a drug-resistant bug. Nabriva Therapeutics’ CEO says that because of that confusion we’re ignoring the problem, similar to how people ignore global climate change.
Most of us have encountered an antibiotic at some point in our lives – to treat an ear infection, combat a round of strep throat, or treat a pesky cough.
But, as antibiotic resistance continues to be a growing problem around the world, it’s often hard to make the connection between drug-resistant bacteria and ourselves.
“When you get resistance for a common infection, it’s a big problem, which we’re sort of ignoring a bit like global warming,” said Dr. Colin Broom, the CEO of Nabriva Therapeutics, a biotech firm developing a new antibiotic to treat community-acquired bacterial pneumonia. The drug, lefamulin, is in phase three trials, with some results coming later this year.
Antibiotic-resistant diseases are expected to kill 10 million people annually by 2050. And it hasn’t been easy to get new drugs to stay ahead of the problem. Many major pharmaceutical companies have stopped developing new antibiotics, and the drugs that are still in development have faced numerous stumbling blocks toward approval.
Broom sees similarities in the responses to climate change and antibiotic resistance, he said, in that there tends to be a misconception about antibiotic resistance and how it spreads.
It’s easy for any one person not to see how the issue concerns him or her, especially if the person is not actively getting treated for a bacterial infection. According to a World Health Organization survey from 2015, 76% of respondents thought antibiotic resistance happened when a person’s body becomes resistant to the drug. That line of thinking suggests resistance isn’t a problem for those not actively taking an antibiotic. But that’s not the case.
“It has nothing to do with you,” Broom said. “It’s the bacteria that somebody else has had that you pick up.”
“That I think is the disconnect,” Dr. Elyse Seltzer, the chief medical officer of Nabriva, told Business Insider. “At the national organization level there’s a clear recognition of the need for new antibiotics.”
Government organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been warning about the rise of antibiotic resistance, saying we’ll soon be in a “post-antibiotic era.”