Drug resistance causes 5,000 UK deaths

Antibiotics image

Prime minister acts to combat antibiotic resistance

Conservative prime minister David Cameron has launched investigations into tackling the threat of antibiotic resistance, as he states that the world could be “cast back into the dark ages of medicine” unless the situation is dealt with promptly.

His recent review begs why so few anti-microbial drugs have been introduced over the past years, whilst Mr Cameron has also set up a panel, headed by economist Jim O’Neill, which will set out plans for encouraging the development of new antibiotics. The panel will delve into the increase of drug-resistant strains of bacteria, the labelled ‘market failure’ which has seen no new class of antibiotic for over 25 years and the general global over-use of antibiotics.

This is not new ground for Mr Cameron, as he brought up the issue of antibiotic resistance at the G7 meeting in Brussels earlier this month, garnering support from both America and Germany. It is estimated that drug resistant strains of bacteria are responsible for 5,000 UK deaths per year, this figure reaching 25,000 across Europe.

Drug resistance

“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,” Mr Cameron told BBC News.

Chief Medical Officer for England Prof Dame Sally Davies has also raised the profile of this issue, by declaring it just as important as terrorism, labelling it as a “ticking time bomb”. 

“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,” she continues.

Medical research charity the Wellcome Trust is providing £500,000 of funding for Mr O’Neill and his team, which will be based at their headquarters in central London. Director Jeremy Farrar said “Drug-resistant bacteria, viruses and parasites are driving a global health crisis. It threatens not only our ability to treat deadly infections, but almost every aspect of modern medicine: from cancer treatment to Caesarean sections, therapies that save thousands of lives every day rely on antibiotics that could soon be lost.”

The panel is due to start work in September.