Japan has recently come up with a report about a form of multidrug-resistant gonorrhea. While this is troubling news in itself, coupled with the fact that HIV transmission is 5 times more likely with the presence of gonorrhea makes the situation close to a nightmare. The effect on increasing HIV rates in Asia and Africa could be disastrous.
First question: How did this happen? The story follows the usual process of drug resistance. Penicillin was first used to treat gonorrhea in 1943, followed by Ciprofloxacin in the mid-1980s and Cefixime in 2003. For each antibiotic, the bacteria developed new ways of reducing the drug's effectiveness. Furthermore, it is presumed that the availability of over-the-counter medication in Africa and Asia lead people to take the wrong dose at the wrong time, without proper guidance from a physician. The most recent option, Ceftriaxone, has recently failed in Japan.
Second question: Is there no hope at all? The answer is no, according to Peter Greenhouse of the British Association for Sexual Health & HIV (BASHH), who is also a consultant in sexual health. The biggest barrier here is the lack of incentive. Antibiotics are likely to become ineffective eventually due to drug resistance, so why invest so much time and money behind them. "There’s a desperate world-wide demand for new antibiotics," he says, "Yet the drug companies aren’t interested, so how could we motivate them?" There are two options, says Greenhouse. The drug would have to be seriously expensive or substantial reward would have to be offered to the developer.
The problem of balancing costs and benefits is always a big challenge to overcome in drug discovery. Even though the case of gonorrhea antibiotics is an extreme example, it is a good illustration of the way the pharmaceuticals work. Learn more about the challenges in pharmaceutical industry's by attending the Biopharma Asia Convention 2013. We have a specialized conference track related to this topic called Drug Discovery World Asia, which will definitely give you a more in-depth view into the field of drug discovery.
Source: BBC News Health