The South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC) has invested R4 million in the development and delivery of new and affordable antibiotic treatments for drug resistant neonatal sepsis and sexually transmitted infections.

Conducted by the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP), the clinical research studies aim to have a treatment for drug resistant gonorrhoea registered in a number of countries, including South Africa, and two new treatments for neonatal sepsis developed.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that three million newborns suffer from sepsis globally every year and that three out of every 10 deaths are as a result of neonatal sepsis caused by antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Neonatal sepsis is of growing concern in South Africa where more hospital births are likely to expose newborns to multi-drug resistant bacteria.

“We have to be adaptive and rapidly responsive to AMR so as to prevent it from aggravating the quadruple burden of disease in South Africa,” said President and CEO of the SAMRC, Professor Glenda Gray.

“Collaborating and investing in new drug development projects such as these is just one of our contributions towards achieving the sustainable development goal to reduce neonatal mortality,” continued Prof Gray.

The research also intends to roll out a treatment for drug resistant gonorrhoea, which infects 78 million people globally. According to the WHO, antibiotic resistance is making the infection much harder to treat as the bacteria that causes it evolves every time a new class of antibiotics is introduced to treat the infection.

“This funding from the SAMRC will contribute to our ambition to register a new treatment for gonorrhoea in a number of countries, including South Africa as well as to develop two new treatments for neonatal sepsis,” said Director of GARDP, Dr Manica Balasegaram.

“We are grateful for SAMRC’s continued support in our efforts to boost the development of new antibiotics. Our work is global in focus and therefore reflects the needs of developing countries such as South Africa,” continued Dr Balasegaram.

“Collaborations such as these are important if we are to tackle antimicrobial resistance,” said Head of the joint DNDi/GARDP office in South Africa, Carol Ruffell.

“Neonatal sepsis accounts for around 214,000 deaths globally a year and is of growing concern to South Africa. It is now a major barrier to achieving the sustainable development goal to reduce neonatal mortality. Similarly, while the impact of gonorrhoea is truly global, Africa and Western Pacific regions have the highest incidence levels of this sexually-transmitted infection,” concluded Ruffell.

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