Bacteria Rising: The Next Global Health Crisis Looms Intro
Despite years of warnings from epidemiologists,1 the COVID-19 outbreak caught the world off guard. Even as we continue to battle this pandemic, the next global health crisis is already looming: By 2050, 10 million people a year could die from previously treatable bacterial infections.2 That’s more than triple the number who died of COVID-19 in 2020 alone.3 The only way out of this might be major investments in new antibiotics and a drastic reduction in their quotidian use, especially in agriculture.
On the positive side, the pandemic has shown how fast we can invent a solution when given global collaboration and the right financial incentives. Vaccine development was once a backwater market with unappealing investment returns compared to more profitable drugs. But now we have had breakthroughs, often due to small, private companies and that’s where much of the early, and possibly innovative, antibiotic work is happening too.4 The chart below shows how those companies are building the pipeline of new antibiotics and getting novel compounds into clinical trials. It is the next big hurdle for humanity, but one we must be ready for.
Bacteria Rising: Another Health Crisis Looms chart notes
Source: Pew Charitable Trusts, Antibiotics Currently in Global Clinical Development, data as of March 2021. World Health Organization, 2020 Antibacterial agents in clinical and preclinical development: an overview and analysis, data as of December 2020. MSCI ESG Research, as of October 2021.
Bacteria Rising: Another Health Crisis Looms footnotes
1 Lederberg, Joshua PhD. 1988. “Medical science, infectious disease, and the unity of humankind.” JAMA 260: 684-685; Sanger, David, Lipton, Eric, Sullivan, Eileen, and Crowley, Michael. “Before Virus Outbreak, a Cascade of Warnings Went Unheeded.” New York Times, March 19, 2020.
2 Giguere-Morello, Julia, Ratte Aurélie. “Resistance to antibiotics: Checkmate.” MSCI ESG Research, Dec. 15, 2019. (Client access only)
3 “The true death toll of COVID-19: Estimating global excess mortality.” World Health Organization, May 2021.
4 Of the 245 antimicrobial compounds in pre-clinical development globally, as of December 2020, 73% were by private companies. “2020 antibacterial agents in clinical and preclinical development: an overview and analysis.” World Health Organization, 2021.