Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been defined as one of the major potential health crises of the 21st century. Medical research has intensified its focus on addressing this issue, however, a bridge has certainly been crossed. Notable bacteria are resistant to nearly all antibiotics and some have even become resistant to all forms of treatment.
AMR occurs naturally, but the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in human medicine and agriculture have accelerated the developmental pace of antibiotic-resistant strains. It’s currently estimated that 700,000 deaths per year are caused by AMR. The AMR Review predicts that, by 2050, AMR will account for 10,000,000 deaths annually.
Cancer currently accounts for 8,200,000 deaths globally.
AMR doesn’t respect lockdowns. From contaminated agricultural runoff water to denser living conditions, our current defences against AMR are worrying. Despite the reduction in international travel, antibiotic resistance has accelerated at an unprecedented rate with Health Secretary Matt Hancock calling it the ‘silent pandemic’ when speaking with other ministers at the 2018 G7 summit.
A month before our world changed pretty dramatically in 2020, Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies explained that AMR is ‘…just as important and deadly as climate change and international terrorism…’ If COVID-19 has taught us one thing, it’s that these previous warnings require a drastic change in approach.
Although no new class of antibiotics has been brought to the market for decades, new developments in treatments for bacterial infection are providing glints of hope. 43 new antibiotics are being actively researched and tested. 13 are currently at the final phase 3 stage. On the surface this appears promising, however, these treatments tackle infections, in the same way, those that became resistant do.
That’s why pharmaceutical research is exploring alternative treatments to provide more security against history repeating itself.
One such interesting development is Hypochlorous Acid (HOCL). A highly oxidised, mildly acidic antimicrobial solution, HOCL is produced in the human body when white blood cells attack pathogens. It was first discovered in 1834 and has multiple FDA approvals. It is 300 times stronger than bleach yet completely safe and has broad-spectrum antiviral, antifungal and antimicrobial properties.
Historically, HOCL has been overlooked by “Big Pharma”. This is in large part due to the fact that it has never previously been patent protectable. However, in 2020 the SpectrumX Group in collaboration with Spectrum Antimicrobials announced the completion of the development of SCP-069. SPC-069 is a new class of HOCL-based therapy designed to treat viral, bacterial and fungal infections in the lung and respiratory tract. It was primarily developed to eradicate AMR ‘Superbugs’.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated research and investment into HOCL-based therapies. Phase 2 academic clinical trials are currently being led by the Medical University Hospital Innsbruck, testing the nebulised treatment of COVID-19 patients with SCP-069. Nebulisers are medical devices that disperse vapour into the deeper areas of the respiratory system (like lung tissue). Dr Jerry Stonemetz, Medical Director at Johns Hopkins University Hospital explains that:
“HOCL has been well researched, published and later cleared by FDA in different therapeutic areas including reduction of topical inflammation and topical pain as well as disinfection of food and food preparation areas. However, none of the above-mentioned products has been able to provide stability at lower concentrations for the safe use of the product on people. Spectrum Antimicrobials unique and patented formulations provide rapid disinfection in the presence of soil and other organic matter, at concentrations of 0.032% where other HOCL based products have been shown to certainly fail in stability and performance.”
The primary endpoints of the study are to demonstrate that inflammation symptoms of patients are reduced, allowing easier breathing after treatment and increased recovery time to reversal of symptoms. With the benefit of successful trial data, several other potential infection treatment possibilities, pertinent to the ongoing AMR crisis, could be investigated. These include pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, flu and the common cold.
Based in the UK, SpectrumX is currently raising capital to expand its testing operations alongside other innovative public health products. These include a sanitisation tunnel to disinfect larger crowds attending mass events, new non-alcohol based disinfectants and skincare products.