WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 (UPI) -- The U.S. government is working with industry to develop a drug against bioterrorism threats and to treat antibiotic-resistant infections, health officials say.
Robin Robinson, director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the authority will support the development of Carbavance under a five-year, cost-sharing agreement with Rempex Pharmaceuticals Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of The Medicines Co. in San Diego.
The agreement includes an initial commitment from the authority of $19.8 million and can be extended to provide up to $90 million over five years.
"Antibiotic resistance adversely impacts our nation's ability to respond effectively to a bioterrorism attack and to everyday public health threats," Robinson said in a statement.
"By partnering with industry to develop novel anti-microbial drugs against biothreats that also treat drug-resistant bacteria, we can address health security and public health needs efficiently."
The two bioterrorism threats are melioidosis and glanders. With existing antibiotic treatments, about 40 percent of people who become ill from these bacteria die, and up to 90 percent die if not treated.
Melioidosis, also called Whitmore's disease, can be mistaken for other diseases such as tuberculosis and common forms of pneumonia. The bacteria that cause melioidosis can be found in water and soil, and cause infection when a person touches or inhales it. The infection is common in parts of Southeast Asia and Australia.
Glanders is a respiratory disease that can affect people, although it is primarily found in animals. The bacteria that cause glanders can affect skin, blood, lungs or muscles, and may be transmitted through direct contact with infected animals or by inhaling contaminated aerosols or dust. Both can become resistant to existing antibiotics.
Carbavance potentially could be used commercially to treat complicated urinary tract infections, hospital-acquired pneumonia, ventilator-acquired pneumonia and carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, all of which can be resistant to existing antibiotics, Robinson said.
CRE are a family of bacteria resistant to all or nearly all antibiotics, kill up to half of people who get serious infections with them and can spread their resistance to other bacteria. It has been detected in nearly every state, and the incidence has risen sharply over the past five years, Robinson said.