Pharmaceutical industry has withdrawn from the ‘antibiotic space.’ Is it time for research universities to step in?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that at least 2 million Americans are sickened by antibiotic resistant infections each year and survive. (Twenty-three thousand die.) These experiences leave deep impressions not just on the patients but on their family and friends.
Michael Kinch, PhD, associate vice chancellor and director of the Center for Research Innovation in Business, is among that number. A few years ago his 12-year-old son suddenly became ill, so ill Kinch had to carry him into a nearby clinic in his arms. Because his son had a fever, the doctors at the clinic put him on first one and then a second antibiotic while they worked on a diagnosis.
They soon learned his son’s appendix had burst and he was septic. “Things moved so fast he was septic before he was symptomatic [for appendicitis],” Kinch said. His son was moved to an academic medical center where he had surgery and was put on four newer antibiotics.
When the lab tests for antibiotic susceptibility finally came in, they showed the pathogenic bacteria were susceptible to only two of the six antibiotics Kinch’s son had been given. Stunningly, the two that worked were the older drugs he had been given at the clinic. “I can only assume that if we had gone straight to the academic medical center, he might not have survived,” Kinch said.
“It’s not that my son had had extensive exposure to antibiotics,” Kinch explained carefully. “We’re all just colonized by resistant bacteria now.”
“Three weeks later I was asked to join a nonprofit organization working on new models for drug development, called the Institute for Life Sciences Collaboration,” Kinch said. “The institute was picking the therapeutic areas that would be their focus. “They were considering various exotic diseases, and I said, ‘Antibiotics.’”
Antibiotics are crashing.
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