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Weekly Digest: Ebola outbreak continues in DRC; Access to older antibiotics in jeopardy

Weekly Digest: Ebola outbreak continues in DRC; Access to older antibiotics in jeopardy

A weekly roundup of news on drug resistance and other topics in global health.  

Maintaining U.S. leadership in global health. The U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) released Global Health and the Future of the United States, a report to the government on strategies for maintaining its role as a leader in global health. The recommendations are aimed at protecting against global health threats, enhancing productivity and economic growth, and maximizing returns on investment. Specific actions to address antimicrobial resistance include strengthening surveillance systems, assisting low-income countries with infection control and antimicrobial stewardship, improving supply chains to ensure the quality of antimicrobials, and incentivizing the development of therapeutics, vaccines, and diagnostics. CDDEP Director Ramanan Laxminarayan is a member of the Committee on Global Health and the Future of the United States, which is responsible for the report. [NASEM, CIDRAP]

Access to older antibiotics in jeopardy. Older antibiotics, including penicillin, nitrofurantoin, and fosfomycin are often unavailable in South Africa, Brazil, and other nations because companies underproduce these low profit margin products.  In response,  doctors may prescribe less effective or more toxic agents that might be more expensive and produce poorer patient outcomes. Ganesan Karthikeyan, a cardiologist at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences told Al Jazeera, “There is a market failure in the penicillin sector: there is a demand, but it comes from the poor.”

A comment in Clinical Microbiology and Infection, “Ensuring universal access to old antibiotics,” calls these shortages a critical, but neglected priority in global health. The authors call on WHO and the European Commission to develop a strategy for ensuring sustainable production, registration, and availability of older antibiotics, and to monitor global availability. Speaking before Friday’s meeting of health ministers of the Group of 20 leading developed and developing economies, Health Minister of Germany Hermann Groehe stated, “There must be no return to the pre-penicillin era.” [CMI, Al Jazeera, Reuters]

Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo continues. Twenty-nine suspected cases of Ebola (two laboratory-confirmed) and three deaths have now been recorded in Lakati health district, the epicenter of the outbreak. More than 400 close contacts of patients are currently being monitored. DRC health officials and the World Health Organization are discussing the possibility of deploying an experimental Ebola vaccine that was effective in Guinea during the previous outbreak. An estimated $10 million is needed for the first six months of containment efforts. [New York Times, CIDRAP, WHO]

Pharma alliance to lead industry efforts against antimicrobial resistance. An association of pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and diagnostics companies was announced at the B20 Health Conference in Berlin this week. The AMR Industry Alliance will be hosted by the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA). It will ensure that members deliver on commitments made in the 2016 IFPMA Industry Roadmap on Combatting Antimicrobial Resistance, by investing in research and development, and improving access to antimicrobials, diagnostic tests, and vaccines. One of the first goals of the Alliance is a reporting mechanism to track progress, increase industry accountability, and inform global decision-making. [CIDRAP, IFPRA]

ResistoMap: visualize antibiotic resistance in human microbiota across the globe. An online visualization tool allows visitors to explore the geographic distribution of antibiotic resistance, using data from more than 1,500 gut metagenomes from 15 countries. ResistoMap was developed by scientists from Russia’s Federal Research and Clinical Centre of Physical-Chemical Medicine, the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, and the Russian Data Library. [ResistoMap]