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GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Hosts Global Convention on Antibiotic-resistant Infections - Drug Company Hawks Vaccines as Antidote to Growing World Public Health Crisis

Ask any doctor or hospital employee and they’ll tell you: antibiotic-resistant infections are a major and growing public health problem, and not just in hospitals.


The problem, in plain English, is that bacteria and microbes are getting more and more resistant to almost all commonly used antibiotics. That has led to a growing number of life-threatening bacterial infections that doctors cannot treat because the antibiotics just don’t work anymore.


Even with infections by bugs that are immune to “Round One” antibiotics, an alarming number of infections are by bugs that are immune to “Round Two” antibiotics.


One such example is the Enterobacter bacterium, of which some strains are resistant to both “Round One” standard antibiotics and powerful last-resort antibiotics called carbapenems.  Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacter (CRE) infections all too often do not end well.


Bugs that are resistant to most or even all known antibiotics are now known as superbugs.


To help modern medicine fight the rising threat of superbugs, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) hosted an industry convention this past July 6-7 in Belgium.


The primary thrust of the global meeting was the idea of developing new vaccines—not new antibiotics—to combat superbugs.


Much of the battle against superbugs involves creating new antibiotics—a timely and costly process that many experts say is not quite enough.  The GSK conference pushed the idea of opening an entire new front—although actually an old idea, historically—in fighting the bugs.


The two-day convention was attended by microbiologists, infectious disease experts and researchers from non-profits, governments, academia and drug companies around the world.


Proponents argue that vaccines against various bacteria simply reduce infections—and hence the bugs’ ability to “learn” resistance against antibiotics—in the first place.


That was the case with the introduction of vaccines against the most prevalent strains of pneumococcus bacteria (Streptococcus pneumoniae) in the 2000s—which studies in the United States have shown cut instances of pneumonia while simultaneously slashing the number of infections resistant to “Round One” antibiotics like penicillin.


The same benefit was seen in South Africa when the country introduced a pneumococcal vaccine in 2009.


What’s more, vaccines have an advantage over antibiotics in that they rarely generate resistance.

At the GSK meeting, drug firms pledged to draw together and publish all their data on the subject, and to generate new data monitoring the circulation of resistant bacterial strains.


By demonstrating how effective vaccines can be at fighting antibiotic-resistant infections—and, far more importantly, protecting against infections—convention participants now hope to encourage governments and health organizations to provide better incentives for new vaccines.