Antibiotics, the Next Generation!

Scientists are very interested in bacteria for a number of reasons. Among the most recent is that they can be used to manufacture various important chemicals, including fuels.

We tend not to think about it, but the single-cell microorganisms categorized as bacteria are the dominant life form on Earth. In some mathematical sense, this is their planet and we just use it.

Their total biomass, after all, is greater than that of all living plants and animals combined. Bacteria inhabit the planet from the highest peaks to the deepest depths of the ocean. There are typically 40 million bacteria in one gram of soil and a million in a milliliter of fresh water. In our bodies, bacteria outnumber human cells 10 to one.

Besides making extremely useful things possible, including Rioja wines, single-malt scotches and the Earth’s biosphere, bacteria can also cause serious problems. Bacterial infection, in fact, may be the single largest killer in America today.

However, we don’t hear about a bacterial plague for several reasons…

One is that some pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes or a virus-borne disease, often create the conditions that lead to an opportunistic bacterial infection. So statisticians tend to categorize deaths according to the condition that led to the lethal infection that actually killed the patient.

Also, I suspect that the medical profession doesn’t like to talk about the danger of infections that are often acquired in hospitals, though I may be too cynical.

Regardless, some estimates are that bacteria cause, in the US alone, over 14 million skin and soft tissue infections, and 7 million methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) cases, annually. Of those infections, 70% are resistant to at least one antibiotic.

Moreover, resistance is growing due to natural evolutionary mechanisms as well as the misuse and overprescription of antibiotics.

Just a few weeks ago, the world medical community suffered a serious scare when an Indian clinic announced it had a dozen patients with highly contagious tuberculosis resistant to all known antibiotics. A totally untreatable TB could, in fact, easily kill hundreds of millions and send Western economies into a long depression.

Fortunately, the announcement was false. A therapy was found and the epidemic prevented.

Still, the trend lines are clear, and public perception of this threat is growing.

There are companies, however, that continue to make serious progress in the goal of creating new and effective antibiotics that bacteria could not adapt to.

With a $10 billion market that is rapidly growing, the potential rewards are stratospheric. Investors would be wise to pay attention to companies working to create new effective antibiotics…

As concern over the fading effectiveness of antibiotics grows, investor attention will turn to the few companies working on solutions. Now is the time to act… before everyone else does.


Patrick Cox
for The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning