The world’s first charity to fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria, formed this month in the UK, aims to raise sufficient funds (estimated at £30m) over the next 5 years to bring at least 1 new antibiotic to the market.
Antibiotic Research UK (ANTRUK) has assembled a group of scientific experts from 14 of the UK’s top universities and 14 biotech companies to tackle the rapidly growing problem of antibiotic resistance.
Using a variety of means to raise funds, the charity aims to finds way to more rapidly identify new antibiotics. Funded research will be carried out in UK universities and companies, overseen by a scientific advisory committee chaired by Professor Sir Anthony Coates. The charity’s chief executive is Professor Colin Garner.
The ANTRUK website explains that incidence of and death from antibiotic resistant infections is rapidly increasing. More people die from sepsis than lung cancer (35,000) and bowel cancer (16,000) in the UK—many sepsis cases are caused by untreatable antibiotic-resistant infections.
Only 2 new antibiotic classes have been introduced in the last 40 years (see figure).
ANTRUK says that almost all pharmaceutical companies have closed their antibiotic research divisions for lack of profitability—the drugs are given for just a short time, limiting sales. Additionally, governments hold down the price of antibiotics, so there is little financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to invest in research.
Whenever a new antibiotic is introduced, it is not long before resistant bacteria arise. ANTRUK states that if we don’t act now, in 10−15 years many routine medical procedures will become impossible
According to the UK Daily Mail, Prime Minister David Cameron wants Britain to lead the global fight against antibiotic-resistant superbugs, and prevent the world from being “cast back into the dark ages of medicine.”
Cameron said that 25,000 people in Europe already die each year from antibiotic-resistant infections. The World Health Organization has warned that routine operations and minor scratches could become fatal if nothing is done.
“I want to see a stronger, more coherent global response, with nations, business and the world of science working together to up our game in the field of antibiotics,” said Cameron.
ANTRUK aims to tackle antibiotic resistance not only by funding research into drug development, but also by promoting proper hygiene in hospitals and use of antibiotics only when absolutely necessary, reducing the use of antibiotics in farming, and providing better and faster diagnosis of antibiotic-resistant infections.