Fauci: Robust research efforts needed to address challenge of antimicrobial resistance

This is an electron micrograph of a human neutrophil ingesting methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (purple), a key form of antimicrobial resistance research NIAID is pursuing. Credit: NIAID

Given the evolutionary ability of microbes to rapidly adapt, the threat of antimicrobial resistance likely will never be eliminated. Today, many factors compound the problem, including the inappropriate use of antibiotics and a dwindling supply of new medicines, leading to a global crisis of antimicrobial resistance. This crisis must be addressed with a multi-faceted approach that includes a strong base of basic, clinical and translational research, according to a new commentary in the journal JAMA from Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, and colleague Hilary D. Marston, M.D., M.P.H.

In the United States alone, drug-resistant bacterial infections cause an estimated 23,000 deaths each year. These infections also are a hefty economic burden to the U.S. health care system: $20 billion annually in direct costs with an additional estimated $35 billion in lost productivity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As discussed in a new report NIAID's Antimicrobial Resistance Program: Current Status and Future Directions, 2014, NIAID recently refocused its research efforts to address key scientific challenges. Among the innovative complementary approaches NIAID is pursuing: examining the comprehensive biology and genetic makeup of specific microbes to understand how bacteria become resistant and to identify new targets for point-of-care diagnostics, drugs and vaccines; and developing vaccines to prevent infection with such drug-resistant microbes as Staphylococcus aureus and Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Additionally, NIAID is working to harness healthy bacteria in the human body to combat future infection; target the mechanisms by which bacteria cause disease; and design new antibiotics that are less likely to generate resistance, while also repurposing existing treatments and using natural predators, such as bacteriophages—viruses that infect and destroy specific bacteria. To further clinical research, NIAID also recently established a Leadership Group to design, implement, and manage the clinical research agenda for a new antibacterial resistance research network.

Such research efforts, combined with improved surveillance, prevention efforts, diagnostics and industry incentives to drive development of new antimicrobial medicines are essential to meeting the continual threat of antimicrobial resistance, the authors write.

More information: AS Fauci and HD Marston. The Perpetual Challenge of Antimicrobial Resistance. Journal of the American Medical Association DOI: 10.1001/jama.2014.2465.

Related Stories

Taming microbes to combat antibiotic resistance

date Feb 25, 2014

With antibiotic resistant infections on the rise and a scarce pipeline of novel drugs to combat them, researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed) are pursuing entirely ...

Antimicrobial resistance in Vietnam

date May 07, 2013

Heiman Wertheim and Arjun Chandna from Oxford University and colleagues describe the launch and impact of VINARES, an initiative to strengthen antimicrobial stewardship in Viet Nam, which may be instructive for other countries ...

Recommended for you

US Ebola patient's health improves again

date 2 hours ago

An American healthcare worker who contracted the dangerous Ebola virus while working in Sierra Leone has improved and is now listed in fair condition, hospital officials said Monday.

Endoscopes linked to outbreak of drug-resistant E. coli

date 2 hours ago

An outbreak of a novel Escherichia coli (E. coli) strain resistant to antibiotics has been linked to contaminated endoscopes in a Washington state hospital. The study indicates that industry standard clea ...

Fighting back against superbugs

date 4 hours ago

Antibiotics—and antibiotic resistance—are in the news once again, with announcements by McDonald's and Costco that they will eliminate antibiotics that are important to human medicine from use in the ...

Harnessing the power of microbes as therapeutics

date 5 hours ago

A new report recently released by the American Academy of Microbiology discusses how specific microbes can be modified to enhance their therapeutic potential for treating human diseases such as cancer and antibiotic resistant ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.