Call to boost antibiotics funding to tackle 'looming crisis'

By James Gallagher
Health editor, BBC News website

  • Published
BacteriaImage source, SPL

Far more money needs to be pumped into global drug research to tackle the looming crisis of antimicrobial resistance, a report says.

The economist Jim O'Neill has been appointed by UK Prime Minister David Cameron to head a review on the issue.

In his first recommendations, he says the gap between spending on cancer and antibiotic research needs to be closed.

He has already warned that drug-resistant infections will kill an extra 10 million people a year by 2050.

That is more than currently die from cancer and Mr O'Neill says the global cost will spiral to $100tn (£63tn).


He points to the US where $26bn was spent on cancer research between 2010 and 2014.

In that period $14bn went to HIV, yet just $1.7bn was spend on antimicrobial resistance.

He has published a series of recommendations aimed at tackling resistance.

They are:

  • A global "innovation fund" of around $2bn to support new ideas
  • A reappraisal of existing drugs
  • Reduce unnecessary prescriptions through better testing
  • Train a new generation of scientists in the field
  • Track how resistance is spreading

Mr O'Neill said: "I am calling on international funders to allocate money to a fund that can support blue sky science and incubate ideas.

"Antibiotics research is the poor relation to studying chronic diseases of the developed world but, without antibiotics, treating those diseases can be compromised too."

Many practices of modern medicine - from chemotherapy to surgery - are only made possible by antibiotics.

Dr Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust medical charity, says: "The review's recommendations for action are steps that governments, funders and the research community can start acting on immediately, but there are also steps that we can take as individuals."

Prof Sir John Savill, the chief executive of the UK's Medical Research Council, said: "Picture a world where a cut finger could kill you, you don't have to look far - only 100 years ago, a quarter of all deaths were due to bacterial infections.

"We know there's no magic bullet to the antimicrobial resistance problem.

"Real change needs proper global investment. We need to act now."

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