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‘If grippe con­demns, the sec­ondary in­fec­tions ex­e­cute’: What the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic means for the field of an­tibi­otics

An analy­sis of post­mortem sam­ples from the “Span­ish flu” pan­dem­ic of 1918 to 1919 high­light­ed that sec­ondary bac­te­r­i­al in­fec­tions caused the ma­jor­i­ty of deaths. This, of course, was the pre-an­tibi­ot­ic era.

The three au­thors of the 2008 analy­sis — in­clud­ing NI­AID chief An­tho­ny Fau­ci — proph­e­sied that when a vi­ral pathogen rem­i­nis­cent of that epoch rears its ug­ly head again, an­tibi­otics will be as cru­cial to the ar­se­nal of de­fense as an­tivi­ral ther­a­pies and vi­ral vac­cines.

With the scourge of the new coro­n­avirus en­velop­ing the world, that time is here. But there is an added lay­er of com­plex­i­ty: bur­geon­ing an­tibi­ot­ic re­sis­tance. And as it stands, the in­dus­try play­ers de­vel­op­ing an­tibi­otics are fast dwin­dling, and the pipeline for new an­tibi­otics is em­bar­rass­ing­ly sparse.

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