According to a British government-commissioned review of the threat of superbugs resistant to antibiotics, more vaccines are needed to reduce the use of antibiotics.
The report, which was published last month, focuses on antimicrobial resistance.
Head of the review is Lord Jim O’Neill, former chief economist at Goldman Sachs and currently Commercial Secretary to the Treasury in British Prime Minister David Cameron’s government. In light of the review, O’Neill said that it was important to focus on existing vaccines while developing new ones, too.
Vaccines have the capability to combat drug resistance because they reduce cases of infection and lessen the need for antibiotics. Any use of antibiotics promotes the development and spread of multi-drug-resistant infections, or superbugs, he said.
“There are vaccines available now that could have a massive impact on antibiotic use and resistance, as well as saving many lives if used more widely,” said O’Neill in the report.
The report finds that vaccines already in place are not being used as well as they should be. Around the world, pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines only reach 31 percent and 18 percent, respectively, of children who are eligible for them.
The bug that causes pneumonia, Streptococcus pneumonia, kills over 800,000 children a year; however, O’Neill explained that the shots used to protect against that bug should be given worldwide.
“Universal coverage with a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, something that is already used in many parts of the world, could largely prevent the 800,000 yearly deaths of children under five caused by Streptococcus pneumonia,” he said. “It could also prevent over 11 million days of antibiotic use in these children, reducing the chance of resistance developing.”
The British project, which is undertaken over a two-year review and is supported by the Wellcome Trust, was initiated at the request of David Cameron. The deadline for the review is May 2016, at which time comprehensive information on how to ameliorate resistance will be presented.
During the process it looked at reducing agricultural use of antibiotics, the ways in which it can fund drug development, tackling over-the-counter sales and imitation drugs, in addition to promoting better use of diagnostic devices, and establishing a better understanding of the data that determines the cost and occurrence of resistance.
According to the report, vaccines could see a decline in the number of bacterial infections where antibiotics are used; they could reduce the amount of viral infections, where drugs are given in error, thus increasing resistance; the use of them could reduce infections that take place in hospitals, a setting where bacteria becomes resistant to many drugs; in addition to reducing the number of infections found in farm animals, preventing the use of antibiotics on farms.
High Levels of Resistance to Antibiotics
There is, of course, an urgent need to develop new vaccines that would target specific diseases which antibiotic resistance tends to make worse. For instance, in 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assembled a list of resistant bacteria that it considers dangerous to human health.
Worryingly, the following bacteria don’t have vaccines to address: gonorrhea, Clostridium difficile, as well as bacteria such as E. coli and Klebsiella. Furthermore, they have become resistant to the antibiotic class carbapenems and are known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE.
Vaccines are also vital for tackling and controlling epidemics such as Ebola and widespread diseases like TB and dengue.
Why the Delay in Developing Vaccines?
The latest review explains more vaccines, new and developed ones, could reduce the amount of antibiotic use. These, in essence, would be attractive to money makers for pharmaceutical companies.
Unfortunately, the report expounds that it is often down to the size of the clinical trials that are required to get the vaccines to the market that sees many candidates hitting a brick wall in development. It is because of this distinct lack of funding that more needs to be done so that existing vaccines are available to vulnerable populations as well as developing new vaccines that are needed crucially.
In a bid to improve the prospect of vaccine’s in the market it is important to ensure that extra funding is available. This would then mean that existing vaccines could be brought for low-income countries in addition to supporting early-stage research and issuing reward commitments for vaccines that get through the development stage and make it to the market.
According to O’Neill’s first report, if antibiotic and microbial resistance is not brought under control, it is estimated that it could kill an extra 10 million people a year, costing up to $100 trillion by 2050.
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