Investing in drug development strategies to curb antimicrobial resistance

Cape Town | The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has invested R4 million in the development and delivery of new and affordable antibiotic treatments for drug resistant neonatal sepsis and sexually transmitted infections.  

Conducted by the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP), the clinical research studies aim to have a treatment for drug resistant gonorrhoea registered in a number of countries, including South Africa, and two new treatments for neonatal sepsis developed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 3 million newborns suffer from sepsis globally every year and that three out of every ten deaths are as a result of neonatal sepsis caused by antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Neonatal sepsis is of growing concern to South Africa where more hospital births are likely to expose newborns to multi-drug resistant bacteria.

“We have to be adaptive and rapidly responsive to AMR so as to prevent it from aggravating the quadruple burden of disease in South Africa,” says President  & CEO of the SAMRC Professor Glenda Gray. “Collaborating and investing in new drug development projects such as these is just one of our contributions towards achieving the sustainable development goal to reduce neonatal mortality.”

The research also intends to roll out a treatment for drug resistant gonorrhea, which infects 78 million people globally. According to the WHO, antibiotic resistance is making the infection much harder to treat as the bacteria that causes it evolves every time a new class of antibiotics is introduced to treat the infection.

“This funding from the SAMRC will contribute to our ambition to register a new treatment for gonorrhoea in a number of countries, including South Africa as well as to develop two new treatments for neonatal sepsis,” says Director of GARDP, Dr Manica Balasegaram. “We are grateful for SAMRC’s continued support in our efforts to boost the development of new antibiotics. Our work is global in focus and therefore reflects the needs of developing countries such as South Africa,” he adds.

“Collaborations such as these are important if we are to tackle antimicrobial resistance,” says Head of the joint DNDi/GARDP office in South Africa Carol Ruffell. “Neonatal sepsis accounts for around 214,000 deaths globally a year and is of growing concern to South Africa. It is now a major barrier to achieving the sustainable development goal to reduce neonatal mortality. Similarly, while the impact of gonorrhoea is truly global, Africa and Western Pacific regions have the highest incidence levels of this sexually-transmitted infection,” she adds.

Note to the Editor:
GARDP was established as a joint initiative by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Drugs for Neglected Disease initiative (DNDi) in 2016. GARDP is an important element of the WHO’s Global Action Plan on antimicrobial resistance that calls for new public-private partnerships to encourage R&D of new antimicrobial agents and diagnostics.

SAMRC’s mandate is to improve the health of South Africans through research, development and technology transfer, so that people can enjoy a better quality of life. It aims to help strengthen health systems throughout South Africa and has been one of the first institutions globally to provide financial support to GARDP since its creation.

Susan Frade
Tel: +41 22 907 76 28
Mob: +41 79 640 00 99

Release date: 
Thursday, April 26, 2018 - 12:00
Keletso Ratsela
Contact: Keletso Ratsela

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