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March 10, 2013

Incentives urgently needed to develop new antibiotics, says UK health chief

The UK Government’s chief medical officer has urged global politicians to incentivise the development of a new class of drugs as the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria worsens.

By Nikitha Ladda

bacteria

The UK Government’s chief medical officer has urged global politicians to incentivise the development of a new class of drugs as the threat of antibiotic-resistant bacteria worsens.

Professor Dame Sally Davies warned that as new infectious diseases have been discovered nearly every year over the past 30 years, there have been very few new antibiotics developed.

If tough measures aren’t taken to restrict the use of antibiotics and no new ones are discovered, Davies said, infections may kill patients as a result of routine operations.

"We haven’t as a society globally incentivised making antibiotics. It’s quite simple – if they make something to treat high blood pressure or diabetes and it works, we will use it on our patients everyday," Davies added in the second volume of her annual report published today.

"Whereas antibiotics will only be used for a week or two when they’re needed, and then they have a limited life span because of resistance developing anyway."

Davies said more work needs to be carried out between the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries to overcome this "market failure," and called for antimicrobial resistance to be put on the national risk register and taken seriously at the 39th G8 summit to be held in June.

"There are many ways to incentivise innovation, engaging the private sector, public institutions and academia. The challenge is to alter the balance of these incentives so that we have a thriving, vibrant, sustainable and safe programme of research and development into new antimicrobials."

Better hygiene measures should also be used when treating the next generation of infections, including new strains of harder-to-treat klebsiella, which can lead to pneumonia, urinary tract infections and septicemia, Davies said.


Image: A low-temperature electron micrograph of a cluster of Escherichia coli bacteria, magnified 10,000 times. Image courtesy of Agricultural Research Service.

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