Gram-negatives need love too

Britain’s Health Protection Agency warns today that the supply of new drugs for resistant Gram-negative infections — Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas, Burkholderia — is in even worse shape that the drug pipeline for MRSA and other Gram-positives.

“Over the last ten years the pharmaceutical industry has significantly invested in antibiotic treatments for bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus (including MRSA). There is however a big public health threat posed today by multi-resistant gram-negative bacteria and therefore there is an urgent need for the pharmaceutical industry to work towards developing new treatment options to tackle infections caused by these bacteria, in the same way as they did for bacteria like MRSA.” (Dr. David Livermore, HPA press release)

The announcement comes between two important events: the release of the HPA’s annual survey of antibiotic prescribing patterns in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (report .pdf here, 2mb); and the start next week of the HPA’s annual scientific conference, which will have a full-day symposium on resistant infections (agenda here).

Interesting: The meme “MRSA’s taken care of, let’s get on to the gnarly Gram-negatives” has picked up traction in the past few months. While I’d certainly agree with the second proposition — pharmaceuticals for resistant Gram-negatives are the next big task — I reject the first, that the MRSA problem is solved and all we have to do is wait for the drugs to roll down the pipeline. Doesn’t exactly square with all those posters at the last ICAAC and IDSA exploring emerging resistance to daptomycin and other new compounds.

For a full and thoughtful exploration of the Gram-negatives problem, see this recent New Yorker article, written by the inestimable Dr. Jerome Groopman. (True story: When Groopman’s first book came out, I interviewed him by phone – I was working in Atlanta – and wrote a complimentary piece about it. Fast-forward several years, he has at least one more book out, has become a writing rockstar – in addition to being a hugely respected Harvard clinician and professor — and I am doing a journalism fellowship on genomics at Harvard Medical School. I’m standing in line at the Longwood area Starbucks, and I spy Groopman about four people ahead of me. And I’m too shy to say anything. So much for reportorial moxie.)

Maryn

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