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UK 'to lead fight' against antibiotic-resistant superbugs

The UK will take a leading role in the fight against a new type of antibiotic-resistant superbug, David Cameron has said.

Mr Cameron says his scientific experts have said superbugs are among "the most serious health problems the world faces".

"When we've had these problems in the past, whether it is how we tackle HIV and Aids, how it is possible to lead the world and get rid of diseases like polio, Britain has taken a lead and I think it is right we take a lead again," he told The Times (£).

The paper also reports that the Prime Minister raised the issue in private talks with Barack Obama and German chancellor Angela Merkel at the G7 last month.

An international group of experts has been established to help stimulate the development of a "new generation of antibiotics".

The panel will be led by Jim O'Neill, the former chief economist at investment bank Goldman Sachs, who has been tasked with working out how governments could pay pharmaceutical companies to produce rarely used drugs.

'Urgent action must be taken' on antibiotic resistance

The Department of Health said it is aware "urgent action" must be taken to control resistance to antibiotics or "we could face serious problems in years to come"

A spokeswoman said:

That is why the UK is working with WHO and international bodies to support global action.

The development of new antibiotics is key and we are identifying opportunities to promote this.

We have active programmes in all these areas, which together will help us stay one step ahead both nationally and internationally.

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Market 'doesn't incentivise production of new drugs'

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said despite the "incredibly exciting age" we live in, the market is "not set up to incentivise the production of new types of medicines".

RPS chief scientist Professor Jayne Lawrence said: "The current crisis in antimicrobial resistance is in part due to the lack of new classes of antibiotics coming on the market.

Drugs in blister packets
The RPS says the market is 'not set up to incentivise the production of new types of medicines'. Credit: Reuters

"Antibiotics can cure infections in weeks, so the volume of sales of drugs is low. This doesn't allow the tens or even hundreds of millions required for research and development to be recouped.

"Unless we find a way to develop treatments that cure illnesses in months, rather than treat symptoms for years, we will not see the breakthroughs that both scientists and patients want."

Experts call for new antibiotics to be developed

Big drug companies have little incentive to develop new antibiotics despite huge concerns about resistance to the drugs, according to a group of leading pharmacists.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said the prospect of creating new drugs was "low due to the poor return on investment they provide".

Antibiotics on a table next to a pill bottle.
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has called for new antibiotics to be developed. Credit: PA Wire

The RPS said in its latest report that more must be done to support the discovery of new antibiotics.

It also called for the public to become more educated on the use of the medicines and better management of the drugs by healthcare workers.

Growing antibiotic resistance 'major threat' to health

Bacteria resistant to antibiotics have spread to every part of the world and might lead to a future where minor infections could kill, says a new report.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) described antibiotic resistance as a "major threat" to public health and warned that "the implications will be devastating".

"The world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill," said Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security.

Drug resistance is driven by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics. Credit: PA

The WHO said it found very high rates of drug-resistant E. coli bacteria, with treatment for the bug useless in more than half of patients in some countries.

The report also found worrying rates of resistance in other bacteria, including common causes of pneumonia and gonorrhoea.

At least 10 countries - including Britain - now report having patients with gonorrhoea that is totally untreatable.

Drug resistance is driven by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, which encourages bacteria to develop new ways of overcoming them.

The WHO said people should only use antibiotics when prescribed by a doctor, that they should complete the full prescription and never share antibiotics with others or use leftover prescriptions.

Antibiotic resistance a 'looming global threat'

Health care must be "re-engineered" to avoid the devastating threat of antibiotic resistance, health experts have warned in a report in The Lancet.

The entire structure of health care delivery for effective antibiotics must be 're-engineered'
The entire structure of health care delivery for effective antibiotics must be 're-engineered' Credit: PA

Scientists described a 'looming global threat of antibiotic resistance' that is leading to medical, social and economic setbacks unless "global coordinated actions" are taken immediately.

Read: Tonight: When The Drugs Don't Work

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Drug-resistant infections pose a 'catastrophic threat'

Our overuse and over-reliance on antibiotics has created a catastrophic threat to the population, the government's chief medical officer warned today.

Dame Sally Davies said drug-resistant infections could turn back time to the early nineteenth century when patients risked dying from routine operations.

ITV News' Medical Editor Lawrence McGinty reports:

Read: Chief Medical Officer: Drug resistance could take healthcare back to the 1800s

Doctors need to 'manage expectations' of patients

Dr Nick Brown, consultant microbiologist at Addenbrooke's Hospital, has warned that doctors need to "manage the expectations" of patients to limit the prescription of antibiotics to necessary cases.

He said that the use of antibiotics "underpins all of medicine" and that some degree of resistance is inevitable, but that the rate could be slowed down.

'Ticking time bomb' of antibiotic resistance must be tackled internationally

by - Former Science and Medical Editor

I do not think I can recall a chief medical officer using language like this, phrases like 'catastrophic threat' and 'ticking time bomb' - you expect to see those in newspaper headlines, not coming from the mouth of the chief medical officer.

The fact that she now wants resistance to be put on the national risk register is an indication of how strongly she feels about it.

The importance of that is that it would encourage and allow the Government to raise it internationally because this is not really a problem that can be tackled just in Britain.

With international travel the way it is now, you can not do things just in Britain - there has to be a worldwide initiative especially to get new antibiotics or even totally different kinds of drugs coming along the pipeline.

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