Movers and SHAKERS
Emerging Biotech Opportunities from an Emerging Health Problem
Multidrug resistance is a growing opportunity for investors interested in biotech. The modern world has been experiencing a dramatic decrease in the effectiveness of antimicrobial agents on bacterial pathogens. This is an emerging health problem according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), European Center for Disease Control (ECDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The increased prevalence of resistant microorganisms, whether by mutation or by acquiring mobile genetic elements carrying resistance genes, occurs whether or not there are antibacterial agents in use. However, it is the exposure to these drugs that creates the selective evolution for the rise and spread of more resistant pathogens. Therefore, the primary cause for increased rates of resistance can ultimately be found in the rampant use of antibacterial agents. Whether used in humans, livestock, or released into the environment, it fosters resistance, which has become a global health threat that will require the coordinated action of many different stakeholders to tackle antibiotic ineffectiveness at its very root.
Antimicrobial Resistance in Animals and the Food Chain
The widespread use of antimicrobial agents in animals and the food chain is one key source of antimicrobial resistance. Large quantities of antibiotics are used as growth agents as well as for prophylaxis and the treatment of infections among farm animals and aquaculture. The widespread use increases the selective pressure on pathogenic microorganisms. Many of these resistant organisms can spread to humans.
One company working to provide alternatives to antibiotics in animals is Avivagen (VIVXF, VIV:CA). The publicly traded company develops and produces solutions that promote health and immune support in both animals and humans. The benefits of alternatives to antibiotics in livestock feeds, and food production could help slow the overuse of anti-biotics.
A Composite Index for Resistance?
The role of the CDC/ECDC/WHO is to help identify, assess, and communicate current and growing human health threats. A regular report published by the ECDC on antimicrobial resistance shows the consumption of antimicrobials within the European Union and countries belonging to the European Economic Community. This tracking is to detect trends that will be helpful to identify and halt problems. It also highlights information on consumption levels and trends of antimicrobial consumption observed between and within countries. In addition, a drug resistance index has been proposed that aggregates information about antibiotic resistance and antibiotics used into a single composite. This drug resistance index would be similar to the way the S&P 500 is used in reading economic health. The composite index would allow the continuous quantification of antibiotic effectiveness over time in specific geographic areas.
One private company which has been exploring a unique way to avoid drug resistance is Biofilm Pharma. Biofilm holds patents for products that don’t aim to kill infecting microorganisms on surfaces, but instead prevent them from adhering to a would-be host. In this way resistance to therapies are far less likely.
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The Environmental Role
The excessive use of antimicrobial agents to treat both humans and animals has also caused the accumulation of these compounds in the environment. Antibacterials can take several different routes including, sewage, hospital waste, manure, and water runoff. This accumulation of antibacterial agents furthers the selection of resistant microorganisms. In effect, it turns the environment into a huge reservoir for building and sharing antibiotic resistance genes. PURE Bioscience, Inc. (PURE) develops and brings to market proprietary antimicrobial products. PURE’s technology platform is based on patented stabilized ionic silver, and its debut products contain silver dihydrogen citrate (SDC).
Many of yesterday’s wonder drugs are losing their effectiveness as the natural selection process favors those that are most resistant to anti-microbials. This has opened the door for companies whose main research or product line is to provide alternatives to replace or augment the growing ineffectiveness of anti-microbials. There are companies, both public and private, that benefit from investor interest. Investors should practice extra diligence when they review and research companies in any emerging field. Use Channelchek as a resource for many small and microcap companies by registering for access and daily emails.
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