Superbugs were this week labelled as “the next great health crisis of our time” and there are a few ASX stocks seeking to address it.

Superbugs are bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites immune to conventional antibiotics and pharmaceuticals.

Yesterday, on the eve of World Antimicrobial Resistance Awareness Week, Monash University has warned superbugs could kill 22,000 Australians annually by 2040.

Professor Andrea Whittaker said the problem was a “slow and silent emergency”, warning there was no national implementation plan for superbugs or funding for research.

But the solution included new antibiotics and novel therapies that could combat superbugs head on. A handful of ASX stocks working on drugs to fight bacterial infections consequently fit the bill.


The largest ASX candidate to fight superbugs

With a market cap over $200 million Next Science (ASX:NXS) is the largest candidate.

Next Science listed in early 2019 at $1 per share and while it is off all time highs, it has remained above water.

This company’s key focus is on biofilm, a protective layer that forms around bacteria which causes infection during medical procedures in hospitals as well as on chronic wounds.

Biofilms infect 17 million people in the US alone and are responsible for nearly 80 per cent of all global bacterial infections.

Next Science’s key technology is Xbio and it is manifest in a number of products, such as a surface disinfectant and its XPerience Surgical Rinse.

The company told shareholders yesterday it expects FDA approval and a commercial launch for XPerience next year.


Fighting blood poisoning

Recce Pharmaceuticals (ASX:RCE) is testing a synthetic broad-spectrum antibiotic called Recce-327 against sepsis.

Sepsis, or blood poisoning is the leading cause of death in intensive care units. In the US, it kills more people than prostate cancer, breast cancer and HIV/AIDs combined.

It has also been the most expensive condition to treat in the last eight years and there has been little innovation in this space for decades.

Recce has hoped its compound is a solution and pre-clinical results have looked promising. The company is pushing towards human trials in the coming months.

Since COVID-19 broke out it has further excited investors with its endeavours to fight the virus. Two of its compounds were selected for testing against COVID in an Australian government anti-viral screening program.


Clinical cannabis in with a shot

Rounding out the list of ASX superbug fighting stocks is medicinal cannabis stock Botanix (ASX:BOT).

Botanix has a Phase 2a clinical trial underway in Perth testing its cannabinoid-based drug candidate BTX 1801.

It told shareholders last week it will complete the study at the end of this year and recently completed a Pre-Investigational New Drug (pre-IND) meeting with the FDA. This will enable it to initiate clinical development in the US once the current study is complete.

BTX 1801 is an antimicrobial gel fighting a superbug known as MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) or golden staph.

MRSA is a bacteria causing several complications including skin infections and pneumonia.