AseBio presents the "Map of Capabilities against Antibiotic Resistance" of the Spanish biotechnological industry
The map reveals that 43 AseBio partners are taking direct actions aimed at combating antibiotic resistance through various capabilities. Most of these biotech organizations focus on human health, but a quarter of them focus their activities on animal health or do so in a cross-cutting manner.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared antibiotic resistance as one of the 10 major health threats facing humanity. A concerning challenge that claims the lives of 700,000 people worldwide each year and, if urgent measures are not taken, is projected to cause up to 10 million deaths by the year 2040.
Biotechnology plays a key role in the fight against antibiotic resistance. The biotech sector provides comprehensive solutions ranging from the diagnosis, research, and treatment of infectious diseases to the development of innovative preventive and therapeutic strategies. In the context of the World Antibiotic Awareness Week celebration, AseBio presented the "Map of AseBio's Capabilities against Antibiotic Resistance" during a press breakfast held this Tuesday. This tool, developed by the Antibiotic Resistance Working Group, highlights the role of strategic technologies in addressing this threat.
"Antibiotic resistance is a global public health problem that worsens every year, despite repeated warnings from the scientific community. Faced with the rapid spread of highly resistant bacteria that threaten not only patient health but also healthcare systems and the economy, the biotechnological industry provides innovative and cross-cutting solutions," stated Ion Arocena, the CEO of AseBio.
In this regard, the map provides a detailed snapshot of the capabilities of the Spanish biotechnological sector against the global threat of antimicrobial resistance. According to this map, 43 AseBio partners are taking direct actions to combat antibiotic resistance. Most of these focus on human health, but a quarter of them concentrate their activities on animal health or do so in a cross-cutting manner (their innovations can be applied in both human and animal health contexts).
Antibiotic Resistance: A Growing Threat to Europe
"New data estimate that by 2040, we could reach over 10 million deaths worldwide due to antibiotic-resistant infections," emphasizes Cristina Nadal, Executive Director of Policy at MSD in Spain. "These drugs are losing effectiveness at an unimaginable rate compared to just five years ago due to inappropriate use. With this situation, we could be entering the post-antibiotic era."
According to a study conducted by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), in 2013, 30% of patients admitted to European hospitals received antibiotic treatment. The figure rises to 46% in the case of Spain (ranking fifth in antibiotic consumption in the hospital setting). Up to one-third of primary care consultations are related to infectious diseases, making antibiotic prescriptions in these units account for up to 90% of their consumption.
It is estimated that in Europe, the number of infections caused by multi-resistant bacteria increased from 685,433 in 2016 to 865,767 in 2019. Seventy-one percent of these infections occurred in the hospital setting. This situation results in 35,000 annual deaths in Europe, with around 3,000 occurring in Spain, generating an additional healthcare cost of 150 million euros per year.
"Infections caused by antimicrobial-resistant bacteria are one of the greatest threats to global health. To address this problem, there is a need for research and development in characterizing new molecules with antimicrobial activity against these multi-resistant pathogens affecting both humans and animals. The environment can be a reservoir of these pathogens and, at the same time, a source of new solutions. Therefore, the One Health approach becomes a necessary strategy to tackle the fight against antimicrobial resistance," argues Rosario Cerrato, Director of Innovation at Ingulados Research.
In response to this scenario, Spanish biotechnology demonstrates multiple capabilities. The map reveals that, among the total organizations working to combat antibiotic resistance, three engage in educational activities, 11 study resistance mechanisms, three are developing probiotics, 23 work on the discovery of new antimicrobials, eight focus on vaccine development, and 20 partners center their activities on the development of new diagnostic systems for the early identification of bacterial infections.
"While we continue to advance on other fronts, we already know that protecting the most vulnerable with preventive vaccines would prevent more than 1.2 million deaths from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Additionally, it would save 37 million days of disability for affected individuals each year. We need to start protecting babies and the elderly with chronic diseases, as they are the ones most affected by this crisis," explains Juan José Infante, CEO of Vaxdyn.
Biotechnology Offers Disruptive Innovative Solutions to Antibiotic Resistance
Furthermore, the Spanish biotechnological sector is science-intensive, as confirmed by the analysis of scientific publications in our country over the last five years using the terms "Antibiotic resistance" and "Antimicrobial resistance." The map highlights an increase in the number of publications in this period: scientific publications on Antibiotic resistance have increased by 33% from 2018 to 2022, and for Antimicrobial resistance, the increase is 110%.
In this context, Daniel López, principal researcher at the National Center for Biotechnology (CNB) and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), shared his research focused on the existence of functional membrane microdomains (FMM) in bacteria and their involvement in cellular processes related to pathogen virulence and antibiotic resistance.
"Our work uses the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) bacterium as a study model, a human pathogen resistant to multiple antibiotics that causes highly challenging-to-treat infections. These studies have shown that FMM recruit many proteins involved in virulence and antibiotic resistance. We have developed a series of compounds that disrupt the organization of FMM, thus disabling antibiotic resistance proteins," he explained. "These compounds resensitize bacteria resistant to conventional antibiotics, allowing the elimination of infections that were previously impossible to eradicate when administered in combination with conventional antibiotics. With this strategy, antibiotic-resistant infections are combated, and conventional antibiotics are recycled that would otherwise be condemned due to the high incidence of bacterial resistance."
Juan Basterra, CEO of Mikrobiomik, discussed MBK-01, the first biological drug based on intestinal microbiota that has completed Phase III for the treatment of Clostridioides difficile intestinal infection.
"MBK-01 will be the first non-antibiotic antibiotic, meaning it has a similar effect but is based on resetting a diseased, dysbiotic microbiota with a healthy microbiota from a validated donor. The Standard Of Care (SoC) for Clostridioides difficile infection is antibiotics, and MBK-01 has been classified by the EMA as a new active substance, positioning itself as a non-antibiotic antibiotic alternative in a disease where 25% of patients experience a recurrence due to antibiotic inefficacy," he concluded.
The picture we observe reveals that the world is already experiencing the health and economic consequences of the inefficacy of some essential medications. If governments do not invest in finding solutions now, future generations will suffer the consequences of a world where many of the antibiotics that currently save lives will no longer be effective.