The great challenge of the pharmaceutical industry for 2050

What if we told you that what is expected to be, according to WHO data, the main cause of death in the world in 2050 is, today, a phenomenon unknown to the majority of the population? This phenomenon will cause diseases that can currently be treated with relative ease to become incurable and have a high probability of causing death to the sick. We are talking about bacterial resistance to antibiotics. What does it consist of? Why does it occur? Is there a remedy?: Antibiotics, bacterial resistance, biotechnology… Let’s clarify concepts.

Antibiotics are substances produced by bacteria to kill other bacteria. This is part of a process that occurs in nature. In the same way that bacteria produce antibiotics, other bacteria naturally develop mechanisms to be resistant to these antibiotics, that is, to not die in the presence of an antibiotic.

Since Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin, humans have learned to use antibiotics to cure diseases caused by bacterial infections. But the phenomenon we talked about before is increasingly occurring, in the bacteria that cause us diseases. That is, these bacteria have acquired resistance against the antibiotic that we used to kill them.

Faced with this problem, the situation seems quite intuitive: “if an antibiotic does not work, we are going to use another one that does give us results.” But we still haven’t explained the WHOLE problem to you.

Bacteria are capable of transferring their genetic material vertically (to their offspring) and horizontally (to the bacteria around them). Within the genetic material are the mechanisms of resistance to antibiotics. This means that bacteria can transmit resistance mechanisms between themselves.

Additionally, the different types of antibiotics are limited. In fact, there are less than 20 types and everything indicates that there are no more. Therefore, if we put together the facts that there are few antibiotics and that resistance mechanisms can be transmitted between bacteria vertically and horizontally, we find that there are now the so-called SUPERBACTERIA.

Superbugs are bacteria that are resistant to all or almost all antibiotics. This means that we currently have no cure for an infection caused by a superbug. Antibiotics would no longer work.

The incidence of superbacteria is increasing. Currently, they cause tens of thousands of deaths a year. And it is expected that from now until 2050 the number of premature deaths due to superbacteria will be 300 million people (the main cause of death in the world). How is it possible that the majority of society is still unaware of this problem?

How did we get to this point? We have two main causes. On the one hand, there is the abusive use of antibiotics. In the clinical setting, where antibiotics are used when it is not certain that it is the most appropriate solution. But the main problem is the misuse of antibiotics in intensive animal husbandry, where they are used preventively and to accelerate the growth of animals. The other cause that is accelerating and aggravating this problem is climate change. Increasing temperatures cause super-resistant bacteria to reproduce and spread much faster than before.

Does this problem have a solution? This is a difficult question to answer. Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is already a reality with which we live, and it will become increasingly widespread without us being able to do much to prevent it. We must look for alternative ways to combat infections. And as in so many other areas, the solution lies in biotechnology.

There are 2 routes that are sounding strongly. On the one hand, there is vaccination. This involves creating vaccines that allow our body to generate immunity against superbugs. On the other hand, there is phage therapy, which consists of the use of viruses to eliminate the bacteria that cause the infection.

At Klinea we are aware of this problem. And we want to use our experience in the design of vaccine production plants and biological therapies to combat this major problem and be able to contribute our grain of sand to the solution.

And the other big question: what can I do as an individual in this situation? It is also everyone’s responsibility to address antibiotic resistance. You can:

  • Spread the problem. There are still many people who are unaware of bacterial resistance to antibiotics. The more people are aware, the more public pressure there will be to invest in solutions
  • Do not self-medicate with antibiotics. Take antibiotics only when the doctor prescribes them, and follow the prescription in detail (no more, no less days than what health professionals tell you)
  • Reduce/eliminate the consumption of food from intensive livestock farming. As we have said, the use of antibiotics for animal husbandry is the main cause of the rapid expansion of antibiotics.
  • Maintain correct hygiene
  • Get vaccinated. Vaccines are the best method we have to avoid infectious diseases, do not reject them

Now you know what bacterial resistance to antibiotics is. It helps to ensure that this is not just a curiosity, but rather a global problem that we are all aware of.