Scots experts say £4bn fund needed to tackle superbugs

Global superbug response needs $5bn each year, experts predict.Global superbug response needs $5bn each year, experts predict.
Global superbug response needs $5bn each year, experts predict.
The fight against drug-resistant superbugs requires a global fund of nearly £4 billion per year, experts have said.

Growing resistance to antibiotics by common infections has lead to the appearance of potentially life-threatening superbugs, such as MRSA or drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Fresh calls have been made for global action to tackle the growing public health crisis, which experts warn could cause ten million unnecessary deaths per year by 2050.

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Former chancellor George Osborne warned that antimicrobial resistance posed a greater threat to mankind than cancer if it continues unchecked, during a speech to the International Monetary Fund earlier this year.

A team of international experts, including researchers from Edinburgh University, have called for the creation of a £3.7bn annual pot from the World Bank Trust Fund to tackle antibiotic resistance.

The money could be used to speed up the development of new vaccines, diagnostics and treatments, as well as regulation to ensure that current medicines are being used properly.

They called for global limits on antibiotic use, particularly in farming which they say should be phased out entirely.

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Professor Mark Woolhouse, from Edinburgh University’s Centre for Immunity, Infection and Evolution, said: “Drug resistance knows no borders, as we have seen with the spread of superbugs around the world. It is crucial that nations come together with appropriate financing and governance to tackle this challenge together.”

Scientists also suggested targets to reduce the number of drug-resistant infections over the next five years, in a paper published in the Science academic journal.

Improving access to clean water, sanitation and public health infrastructure will help to curb the spread of disease and reduce the overall need for antibiotics, the experts added.

It comes ahead of a United Nations General Assembly meeting in September, where world leaders will discuss how to preserve access to effective medicines.

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More than four million antibiotic prescriptions were handed out to Scots in 2014, despite efforts to reduce unnecessary prescribing.

Professor Colin Garner, chief executive at Antibiotic Research UK, welcomed the move but said the UK must lead on developing new antibiotics.

He said: “Whilst the problem of antibiotic resistance is a global one, our charity has always taken the view that we must think global but act local.

“Global bodies take a long time to assemble, can be bureaucratic and costly, and are subject to national politics.

“Action is needed now, and the UK should take the lead in securing and developing new antibiotics, whilst also protecting our existing antibiotics through appropriate use.”