SAN DIEGO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) – In an era of rising antibiotic resistance, new potential treatment options and policy changes took the stage at the start of an annual scientific meeting on infectious diseases.

Presenters covered emerging topics addressing infectious diseases, with a strong focus on HIV. A common emphasis, among all presentations, was the pressing need to update availability of newer and more effective drugs.

“There’s always something hot in ID, and often it’s transient. But what isn’t transient is the overwhelming problem of antibiotic resistance,” said Stan Deresinski, MD , infectious disease specialist from Stanford (Calif.) University. He added that: “A fear come true is the merger of antibiotic resistance and increased virulence.”

This convergence of multidrug-resistant diseases (MDR) and hypervirulence has added emphasis to a need for action, Dr. Deresinski said at the combined annual meetings of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America, the HIV Medicine Association, and the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society. One example is a recent study conducted in Hangzhou, China, examining patients with carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae. In the survey of 387 patients with clinical ST11 carbapenem-resistant K. pneumoniae, investigators found 11 (3%) of the patients carried a virulence plasmid, and 5 of these 11 died, showing a deadly association between virulence and antibiotic resistance, according to Dr. Deresinski.

While long-term solutions are needed, a short-term answer is the increase in the kinds of antibiotics available, Dr. Deresinski said.

“As we look at this sort of event, we begin to look at ourselves in the near future as plague doctors,” warned Dr. Deresinski. “We need to deal with this, and the thing that can be done in the short term is the development of new antibiotics.”

The Food and Drug Administration has several avenues that could be used to provide for expedited antibiotics approval, such as fast tracking and priority approval of drugs. An additional program called Generating Antibiotic Incentives Now (GAIN) that allows the FDA to designate an antibiotic as an anti-infectious disease product, making it eligible for fast tracking and priority approval, as well as the addition of 5 years of market exclusivity, may be used to incentivize the development of newer drugs.

In addition, Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria Biopharmaceutical Accelerator (CARB-X) and the Antibacterial Resistance Leadership Group (ARLG) are two groups that will be essential for accelerating antibiotic development, Dr. Deresinski said.

CARB-X, which is a public-private partnership created by a White House executive order in 2014 , focuses on preclinical discovery and development, and ARLG works under the mission statement, “prioritize, design, and execute clinical research that will reduce public health threat of antibacterial resistance.”

Among the hot topics in HIV, presenters described a series of studies conducted throughout the year assessing prexposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and how interventions, such as the use of the drug tenofovir, can increase efficacy of oral prophylaxis in preventing HIV-1 transmission.

In a test of antiretroviral therapy, the use of long-acting intramuscular injectable therapy every 4 and 8 weeks had huge improvement in patient approval, 88% and 89% respectively, compared with the 43% approval rate that oral HIV-1 medications received, said Wendy Armstrong, MD, of Emory University, Atlanta.

“[This] therapy is really getting to the point that we dreamed of 25 years ago, when our goals were finding an effective agent: to have simple agents, less frequent dosing schemes, limited adverse effects, and limited drug-to-drug interaction,” said Dr. Armstrong.

Among other topics to be addressed at the conference, Dr. Deresinski noted that the recent drop in Zika infections, as well as an uptick seen in hepatitis A outbreaks among the homeless and drug-user populations, would be discussed later in the week.

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