The Pharmaceutical Journal

Rhinovirus vaccine development is about more than fighting colds

Rhinovirus, the pathogen behind the common cold, can cause severe, acute lung disease in children and those with underlying respiratory conditions. Since the 1970s, vaccine development has been hindered by the presence of numerous virus serotypes and the lack of a good animal model to test vaccine candidates. However, several different research groups are now making good progress on rhinovirus vaccines, using a variety of different techniques.

The researchers working on a vaccine for rhinovirus, the infection that causes the common cold, are all clear on one important point — they’re not trying to cure the sniffles.

“Rhinovirus is more than just a nuisance,” says Martin Moore, a virologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. “Sniffles in adults are not why we are doing this.” Read more in The Pharmaceutical Journal.

A ray of hope amid antibiotic gloom

As antibiotic resistance continues to threaten the treatment of various infections, researchers are looking for new ways to supplement and in some cases replace failing antimicrobial drugs.

When it comes to tackling infections, we’ve had it pretty good for the past 90 years. The development of antibiotics has turned many previously deadly infections into mere inconveniences, but it couldn’t last forever. Slowly, bacteria have fought back, developing resistance to many of the most effective drugs. In the United States alone, around 2 million people are infected with resistant strains of bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 of these patients die.

“We’re at the end of the first antibiotic era,” says Lloyd Czaplewski, founder of Chemical Biology Ventures, an R&D consultancy based in Oxfordshire. “There might not be any new classes of drugs to discover.”

New ideas are needed. And while most researchers and pharmaceutical companies have all but given up on developing new antibiotics, work is racing ahead on alternative therapies, with an aim to extend the life of existing drugs, or replace them altogether. Read more in The Pharmaceutical Journal.

Tackling prescription drug abuse

There are signs that strategies to address prescription drug abuse are starting to work but will an increase in illegal drug use be the payoff?

Prescription medicines can be a powerful life saving tool, but they carry with them a danger of abuse. The euphoric effects of prescription painkillers, as well as stimulants and drugs designed to treat anxiety and trouble sleeping, can encourage some people to use them recreationally, with potentially fatal results. Others who start using these drugs therapeutically can go on to become addicted.

The problem is a huge one. In the United States, drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental deaths, eclipsing even car accidents. And the UK joins the United States in the grim statistic that overdose deaths from prescription opioids outnumber those from heroin and cocaine combined. A variety of approaches are being used to tackle the problem, including educating prescribers, monitoring prescriptions, introducing drug formulations that are tough to abuse and, ultimately, treating addicted individuals. Read more in The Pharmaceutical Journal.

Pharmaceuticals in the environment: a growing problem

Drugs taken by humans and animals find their way into rivers, lakes and even drinking water, and can have devastating effects on the environment.

When Rebecca Klaper searched for signs of pharmaceuticals in Lake Michigan, she got a surprise. The most common drug she found was one she hadn’t even considered looking for — metformin, a diabetes drug.

“It wasn’t even on our radar,” says Klaper, a freshwater scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the United States. “We only found it because the Environmental Protection Agency just happened to add it to the detection assay we used.”

Perhaps even more surprising was how far the drug had spread from the point it entered the lake via treated sewage. “Lake Michigan is huge, so we expected a big dilution effect, but we were still finding drugs, including metformin, three miles from the sewage treatment plants,” she says. Read more in The Pharmaceutical Journal.

Strategies to reduce the use of antibiotics in animals

New drugs that could eventually replace or reduce the use of antibiotics in animals are in development to help slow the rise of antibiotic resistance.

Imagine a farm with over 100,000 head of cattle, each one receiving daily low-dose antibiotics in their food or water, not to treat illness, but to make them put on weight faster.

In the United States, the total amount of antibiotics used in food-producing animals rose by 16% between 2009 and 2012, to 14.61 million kilograms per year, and there is a great deal of overlap between the drugs used in animals and those used in humans. The most recent data on human use in the United States, from 2011, shows that Americans used 3.5 million kilograms of antibiotics that year. Read more in The Pharmaceutical Journal.