Modern medicine is increasingly recognized worldwide for its lifesaving innovations. Our ability to treat and cure both minor ailments and major diseases has rapidly increased, improving quality of life for people across the globe. A common factor making many of these advances possible has been our ability to fight off infections. Antibiotics have long underpinned modern medicine, helping stave off infections and mitigate risk for those undergoing surgeries and other medical procedures.
Now, as we navigate the global COVID-19 pandemic, we are simultaneously confronted with a troubling outlook for the future. Effective treatments to stave off life-threatening infections are essential in addressing the health threats associated with pandemics like COVID-19. As we navigate our world in the COVID era, it becomes increasingly clear that we must also take steps to ensure that we are prepared for the next pandemic including the promotion of new antibiotic development. The antibiotics we have relied on for decades are beginning to fail us. Common infections are increasingly difficult to treat and the numbers of new drugs under development are declining due to a combination of negative market signals and manufacturer bankruptcies.
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is the next public health emergency.
However, unlike the surprise emergence of COVID-19, we can observe rising trends in antibiotic resistant infections now. Currently, according to the CDC, more than 2.8 million antibiotic resistant infections occur in the U.S. every year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result. We need policymakers to prioritize this threat so we can be prepared for another global pandemic. Recently, Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced legislation to “encourage innovative drug development targeting the most threatening infections, improve the appropriate use of antibiotics, and ensure domestic availability when needed.”
AMR is an increasingly important issue, and voters recognize the urgency. In a recent poll of likely voters, 65% of respondents said they would be more likely to support a political candidate who supports making the development of new antibiotics a priority.
Among the key lessons we’ve learned during COVID-19 is that preparation can save lives. It’s just as important for the next pandemic as it is for the current one.