Current and Future Challenges in the Development of Antimicrobial Agents

Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series (HEP, volume 211)


Micro-organisms exist to survive. Even in the absence of antimicrobial agents, many have determinants of resistance that may be expressed phenotypically, should the need arise. With the advent of the antibiotic age, as more and more drugs were developed to treat serious infections, micro-organisms (particularly bacteria) rapidly developed resistance determinants to prevent their own demise.

The most important determinants of resistance have been in the Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria. Among Gram-positive bacteria, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) and penicillin-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae (PRSP) have taxed researchers and pharmaceutical companies to develop new agents that are effective against these resistant strains. Among the Gram-negative bacteria, extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) enzymes, carbapenemases (CREs) and the so-called amp-C enzymes that may be readily transferred between species of enterobacteriaceae and other facultative species have created multi-drug resistant organisms that are difficult to treat. Other resistance determinants have been seen in other clinically important bacterial species such as Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Clostridium difficile, Haemophilus influenzae and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. These issues have now spread to fungal agents of infection.

A variety of modalities have been used to stem the tide of resistance. These include the development of niche compounds that target specific resistance determinants. Other approaches have been to find new targets for antimicrobial activity, use of combination agents that are effective against more than one target in the cell, or new delivery mechanism to maximize the concentration of antimicrobial agents at the site of infection without causing toxicity to the host. It is important that such new modalities have been proved effective for clinical therapy. Animal models and non-mammalian systems have been developed to determine if new agents will reach sufficient concentrations at infection sites to predict clinical efficacy without toxicity. It will also be key to consider antimicrobial stewardship as an important component of the continuing battle to prevent the development of antimicrobial resistance.


Antimicrobial resistance Drug development Animal models Stewardship 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Laboratory Medicine and PathologyUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada

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