Superbugs – infections that have developed resistance to some, or all antibiotics – could kill 10 million people a year by 2050, Lord Jim O’Neill has warned in his final report for the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).
The problem has risen from an overuse of antibiotics in areas such as healthcare, agriculture and aquaculture, and veterinary.
From tuberculosis (TB) to gonorrhoea, infections that used to be easily treated are now becoming a serious threat again. In fact it is estimated that 25% of the predicted 10m people a year to die from AMR will die from a drug resistant form of TB. Multidrug-resistant TB treatment is long, expensive and complex, requiring 6 months to 2 years of antibiotics that are not often available or affordable in low to middle income countries. The cost per patient treated for MDR-TB in 2014 was $5,000 – $10,000, and the rise in MDR-TB is still growing, between 2012 and 2013 the number of patients with MDR-TB rose by 20%.
More worryingly, cases of extremely drug resistant TB – XDR-TB – have emerged and aren’t confined to just one region, there are 105 countries across the world that have reported at least one case. XDR-TB is often lethal and globally it is estimated that approximately 70% of patients with XDR-TB die within a month of diagnosis. Frighteningly, the cost to treat extensively drug resistant TB is nearly $500k per patient.
Antimicrobials underpin modern medicine as we know it, if they lost their effectiveness key medical procedures such as caesarean sections, joint replacements, and chemotherapy could become too dangerous to perform.
Facilitating a More Intelligent Use of Antimicrobials
To address the growing concerns about antimicrobial resistance, the O’Neill Review has recommended that by 2020 doctors should only be allowed to prescribe antibiotics if a blood or saliva test has diagnosed an infection that should be treated with them. These requirements will create a need for a new breed of diagnostic technologies, technologies that not only perform drug sensitivity testing but also produce accurate results whilst the patient waits.
The first step in this process it to roll out cheap and rapid diagnostic tests that can differentiate between viral and bacterial infections in the GP’s office. By forcing doctors to perform this triage test, we will immediately cut a large and significant number of needless antibiotic prescriptions. The next step is to provide clinicians with cheap technologies to quickly ascertain the causative pathogen of infection, and which drugs the pathogen is sensitive to. This is the focus of QuantuMDx’s Q-POC™ technology.
By providing precise and reliable drug sensitivity testing at the point of care, our signature diagnostic technology Q-POC™ will give health professionals worldwide the ability to diagnose and prescribe the right drug, first time, at the patient’s side. Creating more effective prevention and targeted treatments.
Surveilance is a Cornerstone of Infectious Disease Management
With limited vaccine supplies, inadequate disease surveillance systems and everyday cross-border interaction, national disease outbreaks and emerging drug resistant strains, can turn quickly into a global crisis if no immediate action is taken. Currently global health surveillance is difficult because of the lack of money and resources in some areas, creating gaps in knowledge.
A network of globally distributed Q-POCs™, will send their results to the cloud creating a real-time map of disease and drug-resistance prevalence called the Internet of Life™. Uploading information from Q-POC™ to the Internet of Life™ will create the bigger picture many health ministries and global health organisations require to tackle health threats. By using information from the Internet of Life™ they will be able to locate specific areas of emerging drug resistance, mobilising resources to areas that need them most and helping stamp out the spread of resistant strains before they spread.
Solving the Problem of Drug Resistance
A number of key steps have been outlined by The O’Neill Review to help prevent the rise in antimicrobial resistance including: Running public awareness campaigns, Establishing a $2bn Global Innovation Fund, Improving access to clean water, sanitation and cleaner hospitals, and improving health surveillance.
At QuantuMDx we are pleased to see that the review also outlined its supported for the development of rapid diagnostic technologies that would facilitate the prescription of the correct antibiotics.
As a technology developer with a strong humanitarian focus we support these recommendations and look forward to putting them into action, working closely with key partners and organisations to implement change.
The Future for Antimicrobial Resistance
To ensure Q-POC™ and the Internet of Life™ will create a positive impact globally we have worked with partners, investors and grants.
As we approach commercialisation, we look to organisations such as the Fleming Fund to support diagnostics, as well as drug development, from prototype phase, through the valley of death and into successful clinical validation. Only by working together will we will be able to make meaningful and sustainable progress in the fight against antimicrobial resistance.