Download PDF Copy May 7 2020
A minimal – and therefore innocuous – dose of an antibiotic coupled with highly sensitive measurement technology could save time and money in the development of new active ingredients. The shortcut lies in being able to do pharmacokinetic testing earlier, which consists in establishing proof that the potentially antibacterial agent can actually become effective at its desired site of action. Microdialysis, which involves the insertion of a small probe into the tissue, provides precise measurements of drug effectiveness. This makes the development of vital drugs faster and more efficient. Image Credit: Facaccia, CC BY-SA 3.0.
The effectiveness of antibiotics makes them bad business.” Markus Zeitlinger, a specialist in internal medicine with a special focus on pharmacological research
The statement sounds paradoxical, as the discovery and development of antibiotics was a milestone in medical history and has saved the lives of many people. Nevertheless, many pharmaceutical companies are withdrawing from the field because the development of the active ingredients is not a lucrative undertaking. Antibiotics are effective against bacterial infections and, depending on the active ingredient, kill specific germs quickly. Like all living organisms, bacteria change and can become resistant. In addition, well-established antibiotics are also used carelessly or inappropriately, which means they become increasingly ineffective.
“The development of antibiotics to the point of getting them approved is just as costly as that of cancer drugs. But they are only administered for a short time. Furthermore, new antibiotics are used restrictively against multi-resistant germs, which also brings down revenues,” says the head of the University Clinic for Clinical Pharmacology at the Medical University of Vienna, describing the situation that motivated his project. The good news: in a study, his research group has successfully tested a method for the accelerated development of antibiotics.
Currently, Zeitlinger is also tapping into this knowledge in the search for suitable drugs to combat the coronavirus. In cooperation with different companies and researchers, the physician is working on numerous projects for the accelerated development of already available und promising substances for the fight against Sars-CoV-2. Pharmacokinetics shortcut
The most common bacterial infections are pneumonia, soft-tissue and urinary tract infections and inflammations in the abdominal cavity following surgery. Funded by the Austrian Science Fund FWF, the study was devoted to finding a shortcut in the development process for two of these four sites where antibiotics are used. “Foci and bacterial biofilms are most frequently located in the lungs or between body cells. Antibiotics therefore need to achieve a certain concentration level in a specific tissue in the human body in order to be able to kill a germ,” is Markus Zeitlinger’s simple explanation of the technical term “pharmacokinetics”. And “pharmacodynamics”, expressed in lay terms, describes whether the germ dies on contact with the antibiotic. In the case of a potential antibiotic, these two factors together enable predictions of its effectiveness, which can speed up the development process and thereby make it more attractive. Related Stories
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