As we get older, our immune system weakens, making it harder for our bodies to clear common infections.1 Treatments for these infections have worked well in the past, but we are facing an evolving threat from microbes that are quickly adjusting to the currently used antibiotics. This makes certain infections, such as urinary tract or skin infections, more difficult to treat as they may no longer respond to medication, potentially increasing the risk of severe outcomes, like serious illness or death.2,3,4
Here is what you need to know about the prevalence of hard-to-treat bacterial infections, and what the scientific community is doing to outpace antimicrobial resistance, or AMR.
1. Antimicrobial resistance has become a leading cause of death globally.5,6
The World Health Organization categorizes AMR as one of the top 10 global public health concerns facing humanity.4 AMR may potentially jeopardize healthcare providers’ ability to effectively manage common infections, including those that can occur with routine medical procedures, such as hip replacement surgery, or during a course of chemotherapy.4 It has been decades since an innovative class of antibiotics was discovered, and without further research into novel solutions, AMR could eventually make our currently available antibiotics ineffective.7
Antimicrobials used to prevent and treat infections in humans include antibiotics, antivirals, antifungals, and antiparasitic drugs. Resistance naturally occurs over time through genetic changes in humans or microbes. AMR can occur when using the wrong antibiotics or not completing the full course of prescribed medication.4
In fact, in 2019 there were an estimated 4.95 million deaths worldwide associated with bacterial AMR.6
2. Harmful strains of E. coli are growing resistant to antibiotics
Among the leading causes of AMR-related deaths are infections from a strain of E. coli capable of causing infection outside the intestinal tract. These infections are growing increasingly resistant to the usual antimicrobial treatment.8,9 Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused by this strain of E. coli pose a treatment challenge to healthcare professionals and a concern for older adults, who are most susceptible to UTIs.10
Further, UTIs are responsible for approximately 1-in-4 antibiotic prescriptions in the United States, and recurrent UTIs are common, especially among women.3,11
3. Adults 60 and older are at increased risk of E. coli infection, which can progress to invasive E. coli disease (IED)
IED is one of the leading causes of sepsis, an inflammatory reaction to a bacterial infection by the body, which poses a grave risk for adults and neonates.8,12 Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that untreated could lead to other complications, such as, tissue damage, organ failure, and even death.13
Older adults are prone to infection from E. coli. Reasons that increase the risk of infection include decreasing immunity, undergoing surgeries or other medical procedures, and living in a long-term care facility.10
4. Important scientific research is underway to evaluate potential solutions to the threat of AMR
Researchers around the world are working tirelessly to help reduce or prevent AMR by evaluating novel solutions to prevent and treat the most resistant bacterial infections. Among these efforts to help combat the growing threat of AMR are the clinical programs developed by the scientists at the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson.
Alongside new therapeutics, antibiotics, and hygiene practices, like hand-washing, vaccines have a vital role to play.10 One of Janssen’s clinical programs is a Phase 3 clinical trial evaluating the safety and efficacy of an investigational preventive vaccine against E. coli infection. The trial is currently enrolling participants aged 60 years and older who have had a UTI in the past 2 years. For more information and details on how to get involved, please visit https://bit.ly/EmbraceDailyCaring.
About the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson: At Janssen, we’re creating a future where disease is a thing of the past. We’re the Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, working tirelessly to make that future a reality for patients everywhere by fighting sickness with science, improving access with ingenuity, and healing hopelessness with heart. We focus on areas of medicine where we can make the biggest difference: Cardiovascular, Metabolism & Retina; Immunology; Infectious Diseases & Vaccines; Neuroscience; Oncology; and Pulmonary Hypertension.
1 Sadighi Akha AA. Aging and the immune system: An overview. J Immunol Methods. 2018 Dec;463:21-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jim.2018.08.005. Epub 2018 Aug 14. PMID: 30114401.
2 Kourtis AP, Hatfield K, Baggs J, et al. Vital Signs: Epidemiology and recent trends in methicillin-resistant and in methicillin-susceptible Staphylococcus aureus bloodstream infections —United States. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2019;68:214-219.
3 Sihra, N, Goodman A, Zakri R, et al. Nonantibiotic prevention and management of recurrent urinary tract infection. Nat Rev Urol. 2018;15:750-776.
4 World Health Organization. Antimicrobial Resistance. Accessed January 2023. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antimicrobial-resistance
5 World Health Organization. 10 global health issues to track in 2021. Accessed January 2023. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/spotlight/10-global-health-issues-to-track-in-2021
6 Antimicrobial Resistance Collaborators. Global burden of bacterial antimicrobial resistance in 2019: a systematic analysis. Lancet. 2022 Feb 12;399(10325):629-655. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(21)02724-0. Epub 2022 Jan 19. Erratum in: Lancet. 2022 Oct 1;400(10358):1102. PMID: 35065702; PMCID: PMC8841637.
7 O’Neill J. Wellcome Trust and UK Government. (2016) Review on antimicrobial resistance. Tackling drug-resistant infections globally: Final report and recommendations. Accessed January 2023. Available at: https://amr-review.org/sites/default/files/160525_Final%20paper_with%20cover.pdf
8 Rhee C, Kadri SS, Dekker JP, et al. Prevalence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens in culture-proven sepsis and outcomes associated with inadequate and broad-spectrum empiric antibiotic use. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(4):e202899.
9 Cassini A, Högberg LD, Plachouras D, et al. Attributable deaths and disability-adjusted life-years caused by infections with antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the EU and the European Economic Area in 2015: a population-level modelling analysis. Lancet Infect Dis. 2019;19:56-66.
10 Poolman J, Wacker M. Extraintestinal pathogenic Escherichia coli, a common human pathogen: challenges for vaccine development and progress in the field. J Infect Dis. 2016;213(1):6-13.
11 Foxman B. Epidemiology of urinary tract infections: incidence, morbidity, and economic costs. Am. J. Med. 2002;113(Suppl 1A):5s-13s.
12 Bergin SP, Thaden JT, Ericson JE, et al; Antibacterial Resistance Leadership Group. Neonatal Escherichia coli bloodstream infections: clinical outcomes and impact of initial antibiotic therapy. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2015 Sep;34(9):933-6. doi: 10.1097/INF.0000000000000769. PMID: 26065862; PMCID: PMC4581845.
13 World Health Organization. Sepsis. Accessed January 2023. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/sepsis