Outpacing AMR Infections Through Innovations
As scientists in the field of infectious diseases, it is our life’s work to research and develop solutions to some of the world’s most challenging and dangerous health concerns. While we have made tremendous strides over the last several decades, antimicrobial resistance (AMR), recognized by the World Health Organization as one of the top 10 threats to global health,1,2 could endanger much of the progress we have made.
As we observe World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, it’s important to raise awareness of this growing threat. AMR occurs when bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change over time and no longer respond to antibiotics or other antimicrobial medicines. In some instances, resistance can occur against multiple treatments – known as multi-drug resistance (MDR). As a result, infections that we used to treat easily – such as pneumonia or tuberculosis – can become increasingly difficult or impossible to treat.3 One of the greatest worries about the dangers of AMR takes place in modern healthcare settings – when undergoing elective surgery or being admitted to the hospital or intensive care units, patients are given antibiotics to prevent hospital acquired bacterial infections and development of sepsis. AMR could render antibiotics useless, making surgeries and hospitalizations far more dangerous.4 This is even more concerning, as there has been no new class of antibiotics discovered since the 1980s, which adds to the challenge of treating resistant bacterial infections.
Recent reports show that AMR results in an estimated 700,000 deaths annually, worldwide – and is predicted to increase to over 10 million annually by 2050. This is higher than anticipated annual deaths for cancer (8.2 million) and diabetes (1.5 million).4 Research has also shown that the increase in hospitalizations and antibiotic use during the COVID-19 pandemic may further contribute to AMR.5
Two key bacteria that are causing the highest percentage of bacterial infection-related deaths are Extra-intestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC) and Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus). E. coli and S. aureus cause approximately 10 million and three million cases, respectively, of invasive disease such as sepsis each year. These cases result in approximately one million deaths from E. coli and 500,000 deaths from S. aureus worldwide each year.* 6, 7 A common source of ExPEC infections are urinary tract infections (UTI), contracted in community and healthcare settings, which account for 25 percent of antibiotic prescriptions.8
While the statistics are unsettling, the scientific and global health community are already at work addressing AMR – identifying its underlying causes and developing solutions.
The causes and challenges of AMR differ in various countries around the world, but we believe that – in addition to raising awareness of AMR and the stewardship of antimicrobials – the scientific community can help reverse the trend of increasing AMR infections in three key ways:
- Preventing individuals from acquiring resistant infections
- Treating AMR-related infections appropriately
- Discovering and developing new targeted tools to address drug resistance
At Janssen, we innovate and advocate to outpace the threat of AMR. Our team of passionate leaders and world-class scientists are determined to deliver vaccines and targeted therapeutics against some of the world’s most deadly bacterial pathogens. From the lab to the last mile, we invest in research, capabilities, and global collaborations to bring forth the solutions needed to halt AMR.
Our researchers – in collaboration with our world-leading academic and industry partners such as Locus Biosciences – are exploring innovative CRISPR-Cas3-enhanced bacteriophage technology to develop targeted treatments for respiratory and other organ system bacterial infections, which has the potential to provide a life-saving treatment for patients with infections, such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa (PA), that are resistant to currently available therapies. We are also one of the few companies prioritizing the development of vaccines to protect people from E. coli and S. aureus, the two leading causes of sepsis. It is the goal of our vaccine program to reduce the devastating consequences of infection, dependency on antibiotics and the risk of AMR.
The complexity of AMR and its potential for pandemic-level impact on the global community means that we must join together with organizations around the world to address this challenge. While the goal is ambitious, we will leverage learnings from the efforts around HIV, polio eradication and, most recently, COVID-19. Together, we will reinforce the backbone of modern medicine and protect hard fought gains against health threats.
*NOTE: The statistics around infections and deaths caused by ExPEC and S. aureus are based on figures in the U.S. which have been multiplied by a factor of 22, extrapolating the U.S. figure to a global population figure.
November 18, 2021
1 World Health Organization. Available at: https://www.who.int/vietnam/news/feature-stories/detail/ten-threats-to-global-health-in-2019. Last accessed: November 2021.
2 World Health Organization. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/spotlight/10-global-health-issues-to-track-in-2021. Last accessed: November 2021.
3 Antimicrobial Resistance. World Health Organization. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antimicrobial-resistance. Last accessed: November 2021.
4 Review on antimicrobial resistance. Tackling drug-resistant infections globally: Final report and recommendations. Available at: https://amr-review.org/sites/default/files/160525_Final%20paper_with%20cover.pdf. Last accessed: November 2021.
5 Pelfrene, E., et al. Antimicrobial multidrug resistance in the era of COVID-19: a forgotten plight?. Antimicrob Resist Infect Control. 10, 21 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13756-021-00893-z. Last accessed: November 2021.
6 Russo TA and Johnson JR. Medical and economic impact of extraintestinal infections due to Escherichia coli: focus on an increasingly important endemic problem. Microbes Infect. 2003;5: 449–456.
7 Kourtis AP, Hatfield K, et al., Vital Signs: Epidemiology and Recent Trends in Methicillin-Resistant and in Methicillin-Susceptible Staphylococcus aureus Bloodstream Infections — United States. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019;68:214–219.
8 Longitude prize. 10 most dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Available at: https://longitudeprize.org/blog-post/10-most-dangerous-antibiotic-resistant-bacteria. Last accessed: November 2021.