Can We Keep Up With the Resistance?

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a leading cause of death worldwide. In 2019 alone, AMR directly resulted in about 1.27 million deaths, and played a role in almost 5 million deaths. Without intervention, that death toll is expected to rise to about 10 million deaths per year by 2050.

These are staggering numbers.

However, there are ideas for helping these patients. One of them is the PASTEUR Act (Pioneering Antimicrobial Subscriptions to End Upsurging Resistance), which is a novel payment model for new antimicrobials. Unfortunately, PASTEUR will not address another important concern: The number of people researching AMR has been decreasing for more than 20 years, according to a new report by the AMR Industry Alliance, which was released just as Infectious Disease Special Edition was going to press.

The report estimates that there are about 3,000 AMR researchers working today, compared with 46,000 for cancer and 5,000 for HIV.

“This analysis sounds an alarm as the scientists with the skills and experience to develop the next generation of antibiotics, which we need to treat resistant infections, are leaving for other research areas,” James Anderson, the board chair of the AMR Industry Alliance said.

One important reason for the brain drain, Gareth Morgan, the senior vice president and global head of portfolio management and AMR policy at Shionogi, told me at IDWeek 2023, is a lack of research grants and government funding for AMR research. It is just much easier for a scientist to get funding for cancer research than AMR, he said. This is not to say that research for cancer is not important, but AMR deserves equal billing. Without this research, we will not have new antimicrobials.

Not enough is being done to create viable careers for people interested in infectious diseases and microbiology, they both explained. If you were a young researcher, would you want to invest your time and energy in AMR research or research another area with more funding? Mr. Morgan asked me.

Ultimately, the current system for the antimicrobial market is broken, and Congress has to step up to fix it if any progress is going to be made to prevent millions of annual deaths. We need push and pull incentives for the marketplace, and we need to properly compensate ID specialists for the very important work that they do.

Check out the report. It’s eye-opening.

date 28/02/2024
source Infectious Disease Special Edition
Author Marie Rosenthal