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Tackling Drug Resistant Infection

In July 2014, the UK Government commissioned the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust. The Review is independent and engages widely with international stakeholders to understand and propose solutions to the problem of antimicrobial resistance, from an economic and social perspective.

Antimicrobial drugs are medicines that are active against a range of infections, such as those caused by bacteria (antibiotics), viruses (antivirals), fungi (antifungals) and parasites (including antimalarials).

AMR arises when the micro-organisms which cause infection survive exposure to a medicine that would normally kill them or stop their growth. This allows those strains that are capable of surviving exposure to a particular drug to grow and spread, due to a lack of competition from other strains. This has led to the emergence of ‘superbugs’ such as MRSA and extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis, bacteria which are difficult or impossible to treat with existing medicines.

In the past, resistant infections were associated predominantly with hospitals and care settings, but over the last decade resistant infections have been seen in the wider community too. Since the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance started in 2014, more than one million people have died from such infections. And in that time doctors also discovered bacteria that can shrug off the drug of last resort - colistin - leading to warnings that the world was teetering on the cusp of a "post-antibiotic era". The review says the situation will get only worse with 10 million people predicted to die every year from resistant infections by 2050.

The real implications of spreading drug resistance will lead to:

·       Hard won victories against infectious diseases of the last fifty years will be jeopardised.

·       Routine surgeries and minor infections will become life threatening once again

·       Hospital stays and expenses, for both public health care providers and for out of pocket payers will increase significantly.

·       A rise in drug resistant infections and deaths from illnesses such as bacterial infections, malaria, HIV/Aids or tuberculosis.

The review recommends:

  • An urgent and massive global awareness campaign as most people are ignorant of the risks
  • Establishing a £1.4bn Global Innovation Fund for early stage research
  • Improved access to clean water, sanitation and cleaner hospitals to prevent infections spreading
  • Reduce the unnecessary vast antibiotic use in agriculture including a ban on those "highly critical" to human health
  • Improved surveillance of the spread of drug resistance
  • Paying companies £0.7bn for every new antibiotic discovered
  • Financial incentives to develop new tests to prevent antibiotics being given when they will not work
  • Promoting the use of vaccines and alternatives to drugs