Dr. Frank of Working to Fight AMR discusses the global COVID-19 pandemic and the critical need to address the public health crisis of Antimicrobial Resistance

In addition to the current global COVID-19 pandemic is the long-term public health crisis of growing Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) that persists today. Drug-resistant bacteria and fungi are evolving at a rapid pace with fewer and fewer treatment options. Working to Fight AMR seeks to combat this public health crisis by promoting the production of new antimicrobial medicines. According to the organization, scientists have developed only one truly novel antibiotic since 1984, and just 1% of medicines in development globally address bacterial infections.

One recent Lancet study found that 10 percent of coronavirus patients had secondary infections. Of those, more than one-third were admitted to the ICU. Another NCBI study found that the majority of deaths from the 1918 Spanish flu—which killed 50 million people worldwide—are attributable to secondary bacterial pneumonia.

Greg Frank, Ph.D., director of Working to Fight AMR and an infectious disease scholar and policy expert at the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, wants readers to know that most people who die during viral disease outbreaks actually die from secondary drug-resistant bacterial infections—or superbugs. So, as the industry races to find a vaccine for COVID-19, it’s crucial that it also research new antibiotics. –KB

CP: What is the potential scope of the COVID-19 public health crisis and how can policymakers respond to aid in efforts?

Greg Frank: I believe this is the most serious pandemic our world has faced since the 1918 influenza pandemic.I can say that policymakers have been playing and continue to play a major role in helping to marshal the government response to the pandemic.  This includes rapidly developing public-private partnerships to ensure new diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines are developed to help identify, treat, and prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

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