A new non-profit initiative intended to radically curb the devastating rise of antibiotic resistance has launched from Seattle and is already gaining ground worldwide with more than 50 clinical and academic institutions across 20 countries expressing interest in joining the effort. Hollywood actor Bill Pullman has also joined the effort as both advisory board member and spokesman, quoting his long-standing family history of medical professionals and advocacy.
ARMADA, the Antibiotic Resistance Monitoring, Analysis and Diagnostics Alliance, will be a publicly supported Global Biobank that will for the first time combine big-data and rapid bacteria tracking approaches to create a virtual “shield” against multidrug-resistant superbugs, helping doctors to protect their patients and communities alike.
“The threat of the recent rise in antibiotic resistance is very real,” said Pullman. “If we don’t act now, drug resistant bacteria will have more and more devastating effects on us and our families, potentially killing more people than cancer and diabetes combined. But we need everyone’s help in this fight!”
Each year in the U.S. alone, at least 2 million people are infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics (CDC report) and more than 100,000 people could be dying each year as a direct result of these infections (IDSA). Babies, the elderly, diabetics, and patients with weakened immune systems are the most impacted. According to some estimates, if no action is taken, up to 300 million will die worldwide from antibiotic resistant infections by 2050 (O’Neill). Despite the rampant spread of antibiotic resistant bacterial strains, they are not being tracked in real time and, therefore, not identified as such before the antibiotic is given to a patient.
“Antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent threats to public health with current treatment failing in as many as 15 to 50 percent of patients,” said Evgeni Sokurenko, MD, PhD, ARMADA advisory board member and professor of microbiology at the University of Washington. “We believe this can be reduced drastically as we aim to help doctors choose more accurate and personalized antibiotic treatment when patients need it the most.”
To combat this threat, ARMADA will work with hospitals, doctors, and scientists around the world to collect an unprecedented number of bacterial isolates and their “criminal” history across patients, healthy carriers, animals, or the environment and use them to map the entire current spectrum of superbug strains. At the same time, these bacteria will be genetically “fingerprinted” in order to help develop surveillance and diagnostics tests to quickly identify the infecting strains and the best way to treat them in patients.