The World Health Organization (WHO) recently sounded the alarm on a growing global public health threat: fungal infections. In its first-ever fungal priority pathogens list, the organization cited 19 fungi that pose the greatest danger to human health, including four that are a “critical” priority due to their deadliness and resistance to antifungals. The report aims to spur research and development into treatments, which to date account for 1.5% of all infectious disease research funding. The lack of research and attention on fungal infections, according to the report, makes their total damage and death toll impossible to calculate.
The WHO’s findings are no surprise to our researchers. SERB scientists have been exploring the potential to discover new treatments for fungal pathogens using our polyclonal antibody platform.
SERB has a unique infrastructure to develop and manufacture broad-spectrum polyclonal antibodies. The company has been using this technology for over 20 years to produce two commercially available, FDA-approved products. Today this platform provides the opportunity to develop new biologic therapies against a wide range of antigens. The most advanced project leveraging this platform is an antidote to counter ricin, a highly potent toxin for which there is no vaccine or therapeutic intervention available.
Aware of the growing threat of fungal pathogens, SERB Pharmaceuticals has been exploring the potential to use its unique polyclonal antibody platform to develop novel treatments for fungal infections, including those resistant to current antifungal medications. The company is evaluating the role polyclonal antibodies could play in treating fungal infections as an alternate or alongside traditional anti-fungal therapies.
Here’s why new treatments are so critical now, and how our platform can play a role in responding to this emerging threat.
The Need for New Antifungal Treatments Now
An uptick in infections due to the COVID pandemic
One of the report’s major findings was that the pandemic coincided with an increase in fungal infections among COVID patients – frequently with devastating results.
Because people with weakened immune systems or other serious health problems are most at risk for serious fungal infections, those suffering from COVID were more susceptible to dangerous and deadly fungal infections, particularly aspergillosis, mucormycosis, and candidaemia.
The increasing threat from climate change
The WHO report also found that the increase in fungal infections and the expanding geographic ranges of fungal pathogens are partly the result of climate change. As ecosystems come under stress and weather patterns shift, fungal pathogens may be able to expand beyond the borders of their traditional ranges, infecting greater numbers of people. Rising global temperatures may also be encouraging some fungi to better adapt and thrive inside the human body.
A growing resistance to existing medications
While cases of fungal infections are rising, treatment options are currently limited. Only four classes of antifungal medications are available, and they’re becoming less effective. Some of the fungi responsible for common infections, like thrush, as well as highly dangerous ones, like Candida auris, are either increasingly or near-completely resistant to existing treatments.
Treatment-resistant fungi can have serious effects on patients, leading to long hospital stays, life-altering surgeries, and, in some cases, death. Existing drugs can also be so toxic that certain patients cannot take them safely or suffer from debilitating side effects, making it difficult to manage their conditions effectively.
Hope for New Treatments
Although our work to develop polyclonal antibodies against fungal targets is still at an earlier stage, our previous experience with antibody development and commercial-grade manufacturing underscores our ability to work quickly and effectively toward addressing this critical public health need – fulfilling our purpose as a global leader at tackling emergency health issues and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) risks.
If you are interested in our work with fungal pathogens or would like to know more about our polyclonal platform, please contact us to learn more.