Resistance to antibiotics: a global health challenge

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Paul Chapman, a partner at the intellectual property firm Marks & Clerk discusses the risk of resistance to antibiotics, and outlines why antimicrobial resistance is a global health challenge.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) remains a foremost global health challenge. Indeed, last year the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued a list of ‘priority pathogens’ – 12 pathogens that pose the greatest risk to human health and some of which exhibit resistance to multiple antibiotics. As things currently stand, common ailments such as sore throats are often treated with antibiotics, when in fact they are often symptoms of viral infections. Antibiotics have no positive impact on viral infections and cause harm in the long-term by increasing antibiotic resistance. By giving clinicians simple and rapid means of testing for bacterial infection, better point-of-care (POC) diagnostic devices will help ensure that antibiotics are used only when appropriate and necessary.

“The role of medtech in delivering quicker and more reliable diagnoses, and the impact this can have in tackling AMR, is often underestimated. It is encouraging, therefore, to see that there is a great deal of innovation in this space with the European Patent Office’s most recent annual report revealing ‘medtech’ to be the most popular category for patent filing globally.

“Nevertheless, that our report shows a dip in patent filings directed at POC diagnostics over the past two years in which data is available, after seeing steady growth in the years prior, is surprising. While it is too soon after the WHO published its priority pathogen list to see any resultant filing activity, the percentage of applications specifically mentioning the types of bacteria in the WHO list appears to have reduced dramatically in the last five years. Patent filing figures offer an insight into the health of any market so this reduction is concerning. It’s crucial that AMR remains a focus for businesses and regulators.”

Paul Chapman
Marks & Clerk

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