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Lessons From a Year Full of Infectious Disease Firsts

DEC 20, 2018 | JASON C. GALLAGHER, PHARMD, FCCP, FIDP, FIDSA, BCPS
As I approach the terminus of my first full year as Contagion®’s editor-in-chief, the natural urge to reflect is kicking in. There’s no doubt that 2018 was a year of interesting developments in the infectious diseases space.

In drug development, we saw the approval of 4 new antibacterial agents, a novel influenza medication, new HIV therapies and combinations, and even new medications for smallpox, malaria, and river blindness. Three of the 4 antibacterials are systemically active against multidrug-resistant organisms—although none are specifically approved for those pathogens.

Our armamentarium against resistant infections continues to grow; however, not all the news is positive. In recent weeks, both Achaogen and Melinta have announced layoffs because of poor sales of their new antimicrobial agents. Our “push” incentives1 have successfully developed drugs that are doing poorly in the market, and something must change, lest we let development slow to a crawl during a time when we need it most.

Viral infections also put their telltale insidious nature on display once again this year. Despite the continuing hard work of so many scientists and physicians, the Ebola virus launched back into the headlines. Although an effective vaccine is available for compassionate use, the outbreak in the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo has escalated to become the second largest in history.2 Closer to home, we learned that the 2017-2018 influenza season brought increased mortality compared with recent years. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported an estimated 80,000 deaths, which is higher than any flu season in decades.3 More recently, cases of acute flaccid myelitis that are likely related to viral infections continue to be reported.

As infectious diseases take their toll on humanity, it’s our duty as infectious disease practitioners to identify new opportunities for advancement. Although recently reported increased estimates of the numbers of deaths from resistant infections look bleak,4 it is likely to lead to more mainstream and scientific attention placed on this challenge that might lead to better resources and improved understanding. Antimicrobial stewardship programs continue to mature in the United States and are beginning to concentrate their focus on areas that need it most, such as outpatient practice and long-term care facilities.

Our discipline is one that continues to evolve and, as such, keeps us in a state of constant vigilance. That’s exactly what drew me to infectious disease practice, and I am proud to share that responsibility with you every day.

Until next year, continue to look for the latest infectious diseases news on our website and social media channels, (@Contagion_Live on Twitter and ContagionLive on Facebook). I wish you fulfillment and happiness in the year to come. 

Jason C. Gallagher, PharmD, FCCP, FIDP, FIDSA, BCPS
Editor-in-Chief
Contagion® 
 
Dr. Gallagher is a clinical professor at Temple University School of Pharmacy and clinical pharmacy specialist in infectious diseases at Temple University Hospital, both in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is also the director of the PGY2 Residency in Infectious Diseases Pharmacy at Temple.

REFERENCES 
  1. Gallagher, JC. Antibiotic development—we gave it a push, now it needs a pull. Contagion. 2018; 3(4): contagionlive.com/publications/ contagion/2018/august/antibiotic-development-we-gaveit- a-push-now-it-needs-a-pull. Accessed November 30, 2018.
  2. World Health Organization. Ebola situation reports: Democratic Republic of the Congo. who.int/ebola/situation-reports/drc-2018/ en/. Updated November 28, 2018. Accessed November 30, 2018.
  3. Influenza and pneumococcal disease can be serious, health officials urge vaccination [news release]. Washington, DC: National Foundation for Infectious Diseases; September 27, 2018. http://www.nfid.org/newsroom/news-conferences/2018-nfid-influenza?rel=0" - pneumococcal-news-conference/press-release.pdf. Accessed November 30, 2018.
  4. Burnham JP, Olsen MA, Kollef MH. Re-estimating annual deaths due to multidrug-resistant organism infections. [published online November 22, 2018]. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. doi: 10.1017/ ice.2018.30


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