New Way to Speed Antibiotic Discovery?
Scientists invent faster analysis of chemicals with bacteria-killing abilities; experts stress need for new generation of infection-fighting drugs
Experts have long been aware of the threat that antibiotic-resistant infections pose, Levy said. "But the CDC report finally puts some real numbers on it," he added.
Whether this new testing method can speed new drug development -- or, ultimately, make a dent in the problem of drug resistance -- remains to be seen, according to Levy. It's unclear, for example, what the cost would be, he said.
Pogliano has founded a company, Linnaeus Bioscience, that holds a license to the technology. He said the company is already using the technology to try to find new compounds that kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Another expert not involved in the study said it remains to be seen whether the technology actually does speed new drug development.
"The extent to which it will be useful depends on where the bottleneck in development really is," said Dr. Henry Chambers, chairman of the Antimicrobial Resistance Committee of the Infectious Diseases Society of America.
In the real world, the process of screening candidate antibiotics may not be what's causing the big delay, Chambers noted. It could be, for example, more of an "economic problem."
"If drug companies don't want to develop antibiotics because it's not profitable, then this screening approach wouldn't address that," Chambers said.
And regardless of whether and when new antibiotics emerge, everyone agrees that proper use of the drugs will always be key.
According to the CDC, antibiotic overuse and misuse are the biggest factors driving the problem of drug resistance. Up to half of all antibiotic prescriptions are either unnecessary or not the best treatment choice for the patient, the agency said in its report.
"Just inventing new drugs is not going to solve the problem," Chambers said.
CDC officials stressed that antibiotics are not the answer for every ill; they are useless, for example, against viral infections, like the common cold.