Earlier this year, under the attention grabbing title of ‘Gonorrhea can be incurable, pay attention’, we reported on a United Nations Assembly meeting on the issue of antibioitic resistance. The article told of a horrific future where organ transplants are impossible, women die in childbirth and STIs are common all due to antibiotics becoming redundant.
At the assembly the 193 member states signed a declaration resolving to combat antibiotic resistance by encouraging innovation in antibiotic resistance, increasing public awareness and regulating the use of antibiotics in humans and animals.
The article stated that in the last 40 years only 2 new classes of antibiotic have been developed. Fortunately, since the article was published, a new antibiotic that targets resistant superbugs has been developed.
The new drug is particularly ingenious as it reuses an old antibiotic: ceftazidime. The advantage of this pharmaceutical recycling is that the drug is known to be effective and safe in humans. Of course this old timer is no match for an antibiotic resistant superbug but combined with a novel drug avibactum, it’s a force to be reckoned with.
Avibactam targets the enzymes produced by bacteria that make them resistant, essentially weakening them to a run-of-the-mill microbe that can be killed with a standard antibiotic.
The drug is to be used to treat gram-negative bacteria, a class of bacteria particularly capable of becoming resistant as they can share the genes that encode these antibiotic-destroying enzymes, which allows other bacteria to gain drug resistant properties.
Specifically Zvicefta is approved for treating complicated abdominal infection, the most common cause of sepsis in intensive care patients; complicated urinary tract infection and hospital acquired pneumonia, the development of a lung infection after a patient has been hospitalized for a minimum of 48 hours. It can also be used to treat other serious Gram-negative infections in adults with limited treatment options.
The drug has a complex history of ownership. Having been developed originally by the company AstraZeneca and approved by the European Medicine Agency under their ownership, the drug was then sold to Pfizer in 2016 for $1.58 billion. Pfizer now plans to role out the antibiotic through 2017-2018. The pharmaceutical company Allergen is already selling the drug in the US but under the name Avycaz.