The World Health Organization estimates that 700,000 people around the world die due to drug resistant infections caused by strains of certain bacteria that have evolved so heavily they’ve built resistance against modern drugs. But has a new class of antibiotics emerged proven to withstand the strength of what researchers are calling “superbugs?”
There are various reasons why gonorrhea specifically is becoming more resistant. According to WHO Medical Officer Dr. Teodora Wi, there are three specific cases of strains of gonorrhea where no known antibiotics are effective — these diagnoses were in Japan, France, and Spain. It was also reported that antibiotics used to treat bacteria in the back of the throat might lead to resistance.
“When you use antibiotics to treat infections like a normal sore throat, this mixes with the Neisseria species in your throat and this results in resistance,” Wi clarified to The Guardian.
But there is a light at the end of the tunnel…
An antibiotic called closthioamide, discovered in 2010, is showing to be an alternative for drugs too weak to fight resistant strains of gonorrhea. Researchers from Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine tested the drug on samples in the lab, and have seen promising results.
Published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, researchers found closthioamide to be effective against 146 out of 149 tested samples of Neisseria gonorrhea (the bacteria that causes gonorrhea), and against all of the other samples known to be resistant to other antibiotics. While closthioamide hasn’t been tested on animals or humans, researchers think it’s a big step towards fighting the disease.
"The imminent threat of untreatable antibiotic-resistant infectious diseases, including gonorrhea, is a global problem, for which we urgently need new antibiotics,” Dr John Heap, lead author from Imperial's Department of Life Sciences, said in a statement. “This new finding might help us take the lead in the arms race against antimicrobial resistance."
The next step will be continue research in the laboratory to assess the drug’s safety before administering it in further trials.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 23,000 Americans die each year from infections by bacteria immune to antibiotics. Research further shows that the first-generation of antibiotics is no longer effective in many cases. In fact, one million children die each year to treatable diseases like pneumonia and sepsis. A lot of them can’t afford the newest antibiotics, or don’t have them available in their country.
And yes, this is everyone’s problem.
A study called “Drug Resistant Infections: A Threat to Our Economic Future” that by 2050, annual health care costs would rise 25 percent in low-income countries, 15 percent in middle-income countries and 6 percent in high-income countries (or $1 trillion per year).