13 March 2013Ned Stafford
Global research efforts to develop new antibiotics need to be accelerated urgently, the UK government’s chief medical officer has warned. She adds that that new drugs are desperately needed to fight the ‘catastrophic threat’ of growing antimicrobial resistance.
In the second part of her annual report Dame Sally Davies focuses on antimicrobial resistance and infectious diseases. She says that the development of new antibiotics has stalled since the late 1980s because ‘there are fewer economic incentives’ to produce new antimicrobial agents than for other classes of drugs.
In the meantime, new infectious diseases are emerging every year and diseases thought to be under control are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Describing antimicrobial resistance as an international problem, she says global action and a partnership between the private sector, public institutions and academia is required to mount an effective response.
‘Antimicrobial resistance is a ticking time bomb not only for the UK but also for the world,’ she says. ‘We need to work with everyone to ensure the apocalyptic scenario of widespread antimicrobial resistance does not become a reality. This is a threat arguably as important as climate change.’
‘The low-hanging fruit in antibiotic drug discovery has almost certainly been harvested’Davies’ call for action comes just a month after the EU’s €2 billion (£1.73 billion) Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) announced the first two antimicrobial resistance projects in its ‘new drugs for bad bugs’ programme. Michael Goldman, executive director of IMI, tells Chemistry World that he was pleased that Davies is raising awareness among policymakers and the public of the threat posed by antibiotic resistance.
‘Chief medical officers are well placed to do this,’ he says, adding: ‘In the EU alone, antimicrobial resistance is responsible for some 25,000 deaths every year, and the annual treatment and social costs have been estimated at some €1.5 billion. If no steps are taken to address these issues, we risk leaving society in a situation where doctors will have few, if any, options to treat bacterial infections.’
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Stop putting them in the food! Duh!