This post was co-authored by Joan Drucker, Vice President, Global Strategy Drug Development, Therapeutic Center of Excellence.

Antimicrobial drug resistance has emerged as one of the biggest threats to global health today. A combination of poor antibiotic stewardship, pervasive use of antibiotics as growth stimulants in animal feeds, widespread over-prescribing of broad-spectrum antimicrobials, and a variety of other factors are combining to cause these vital drugs to be increasingly less effective against a range of infections, leading to greater overall morbidity, longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality. Compounding the problem, the biopharmaceutical industry has lacked the financial incentive over recent decades to develop new antibiotics, leading to empty pipelines and a perfect storm threatening to push humanity functionally back to the pre-antibiotic era.

Globally, at least 700,000 persons die each year due to drug resistant infections, and these numbers are projected to increase dramatically in the absence of effective new therapies.  This crisis has finally garnered the attention national leaders, regulatory agencies, and even the United Nations General Assembly in an effort to stimulate and accelerate development of new antibiotics.  The Welcome Trust, US Department of Health and Human Services, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and many other organizations have begun to commit funding and other incentives to address this problem. Recently, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) awarded more than $14 million in support of new approaches to combat antibiotic resistance, and support activities in the CDC’s Antibiotic Resistance Solutions Initiative

The growing impact of this healthcare crisis is one of the key themes that will be explored throughout IDWeek 2016, October 26-30 in New Orleans, where infectious disease (ID) professionals come together to collaborate, cooperate, and share ideas on how to tackle the challenges in infectious disease control and treatment. Dozens of sessions, posters and presentations at this year’s event are dedicated to antimicrobial resistance, covering everything from local and global trends and its impact on specific patient populations, to strategies that ID professionals can implement to mitigate its impact on local patients and treatment centers. Each one of these sessions and presentations will give IDWeek participants a chance to expand their understanding of antimicrobial resistance, and to join the conversation on how we might better address this issue.

Some of the highlight events include:

The intense focus on this topic at IDWeek underscores the important role that ID professionals play in addressing the growing issue of antimicrobial resistance.  

This is multi-dimensional problem, driven by many factors, including over-use of antibiotics, use of antibiotics in livestock feed, and choosing broad spectrum antibiotics to address specific illnesses, and it will require a multi-dimensional approach to solve it. The only way we can make that happen is through strong collaborations between government, academia and industry, and harnessing all of the data available to track and reduce the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Infectious disease experts are uniquely poised to lead these efforts, by coordinating collaborations and providing guidance and expertise on best practices to pursue. By taking a leadership role, and working collaboratively with our peers across the public and private sector, we start to generate innovative approaches that are both technologically and economically viable. IDWeek offers an opportunity for us to start having these conversations and building collaborations that will enable us to get ahead of this problem before it is too late.

We look forward to seeing you there.

Topics in this blog post: Biopharma, Clinical Trials, Population Health