AMR will push us into 'dark ages' - Cameron

Published on Wednesday, 02 July 2014 10:14
Written by Vicki Mitchem

Following Govtoday's Reducing HCAIs conference last week, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine where treatable infections and injuries will kill once again."

He has announced a review into why so few anti-microbial drugs have been introduced in recent years.

Economist Jim O'Neill will lead a panel including experts from science, finance, industry, and global health. It will set out plans for encouraging the development of new antibiotics.

In a survey, conducted by Govtoday and presented at the conference, 63% of people knew nothing about anti-microbial resistance (AMR).

A perhaps surprising statistic when you consider Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer called the threat of AMR on a par with terrorism.

After her report of 2013 AMR was put on the government's national risk register of civil emergencies - which provides guidance on potential threats such as terrorist attacks, pandemic flu and major flooding. She warned that routine operations could become deadly in just 20 years if we lose the ability to fight infection.

Over-use; misuse, including 25 million unnecessary courses of antibiotics in the UK every year; failing to complete a course of antibiotics and the use of antibiotics in animals within the food chain quickens the time it takes for the antibiotic to lose its effectiveness.

58% of those surveyed said they were worried about the impact of AMR on them and their family.

Mr Cameron said he discussed the issue at a G7 leaders meeting in Brussels earlier this month and got specific support from US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Dame Sally Davies, who chaired a Govtoday hosted round table discussion on monday said: "I am delighted to see the prime minister taking a global lead by commissioning this review. New antibiotics made by the biotech and pharmaceutical industry will be central to resolving this crisis which will impact on all areas of modern medicine."

Medical research charity the Wellcome Trust, also in attendance on monday, is providing £500,000 of funding for Mr O'Neill and his team, which will be based at their headquarters in central London.

The worldwide problem of AMR was also recognised by the Longitude Prize, presented last week. The £10 million prize will be awarded to the proposal that will best go towards solving the problem of AMR. The public voted antibiotics as the most worthy project, up against sustainable flight, paralysis, worldwide safe drinking water, sustainable food and living well with dementia.

Lord Martin Rees, Chair of the Longitude committee said: "Our aim must be to find genuine breakthroughs that are credibly achievable within the five-year timeframe – breakthroughs to help solve one of the greatest issues of our time.

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