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New Tools to Diagnose Superbugs Called for at World Economic Forum

JAN 30, 2017 | EINAV KEET
A coalition of global public health officials and industry leaders announced a new effort in the fight against antimicrobial resistance (AMR) at the recent World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, calling for improved diagnostics to identify the deadly superbugs causing illnesses worldwide.
 
A growing range of virulent infections from bacteria, parasites, viruses, and fungi have become more difficult to treat, a problem that the World Health Organization says is a serious threat to our global public health. The issue of antibiotic-resistant bacteria has become of growing concern as infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and gonorrhea that once responded well to medical treatment now defy our arsenal of drugs. As pathogens have developed resistance to antibiotics over decades of exposure, both naturally and due to overuse and misuse of medications, those suffering from superbug infections are more likely to suffer complications, become hospitalized, and face higher risk of death.
 
On January 20, 2017 at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) along with AdvaMedDx, and Becton, Dickinson and Company, announced a new commitment to optimize the use of diagnostic tools to fight AMR. The new announcement highlights the link between accurate diagnosing and antibiotic resistance. Without the tools to identify the organism causing an infection, a doctor is more likely to make a misdiagnosis and wrongly prescribe an antibiotic for an infection that is viral or caused by a bacterial pathogen that does not respond to a certain drug.
By increasing access to such diagnostic tests while encouraging the development of new ones, world health leaders note that we can more effectively fight and prevent the spread of AMR. At the meeting in Davos, officials touted an increased partnership with the medical technology industry to meet these goals.
 
“We must galvanize action in both private and public sectors to accelerate the uptake of diagnostics, including for HIV and TB testing and treatment monitoring,” said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS, in a recent press release. “Quality care, including timely diagnosis, should be ensured for everyone to save lives and to prevent widespread resistance.”
 
Along with the panel discussion in Davos, the event included the announcement of the third year of the Longitude Prize, which offers new seed funding to encourage innovation of diagnostic technology that quickly identifies the cause of infections. The goal of the Longitude Prize is to fight AMR by challenging researchers around the world to develop accurate, rapid, and easy-to-use diagnostic tests so that patients receive the right antibiotics for bacterial infections.
 
“Rapid point-of-care diagnostics are critical to the fight against antimicrobial resistant infections as they will enable more targeted prescribing and lead to a reduction in overall antibiotic use,” said Dame Sally Davies, the United Kingdom’s Chief Medical Officer, in a recent press release. “I am delighted to see this issue being addressed through the industry commitment at the World Economic Forum. To ensure we get the best minds from every corner of the globe working on this growing public health threat, robust seed funding initiatives for innovators are essential.”
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