The Global Fight Against the “threat” of Superbugs is Intensifying - Latest Global News

The Global Fight Against the “threat” of Superbugs is Intensifying

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A surge in funding is expected to boost the global fight against drug-resistant superbugs. The British government and pharmaceutical company GSK are committing a total of £130 million to combat growing antimicrobial resistance.

The pledges come at an international meeting of ministers and health experts in London on Thursday, where participants will push for stronger action and increased funding to combat superbugs ahead of a U.N. conference on antimicrobial resistance in September.

Evolution drives microbes—bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites—to develop mechanisms to protect themselves from treatments designed to kill them and prevent disease. Excessive or inappropriate use of these drugs in medicine and agriculture has accelerated the process in recent decades.

“The global antibiotic emergency is an existential threat to communities everywhere,” said Dame Sally Davies, the UK’s special envoy for AMR, who will host the event. “This threat is deeply unfair as the burden falls disproportionately on the world’s most vulnerable – in low- and middle-income countries, including children.”

The funding – £85m from the UK government and £45m from GSK – is not aimed at developing new antibiotics, which is covered by other schemes. The main aim is to improve access to existing medicines and to use them more effectively, especially in poorer countries, so that microbes develop less resistance.

Emma Walmsley, GSK chief executive, told the Financial Times that having just returned from a visit to Africa, she was “impressed by how high AMR levels are on the agenda there”.

“The challenge is not only innovation, but also the resilience of health systems so that they can effectively diagnose infections and ensure that patients take prescribed courses of antibiotics,” she said.

“Just like with climate change, these are often the communities most at risk.”

GSK will be the first founding partner of the Fleming Initiative, a new global network based at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, where Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928. It will help improve surveillance of drug-resistant bacteria, use artificial intelligence to analyze complex scientific data and focus on improving diagnostics so patients who need them get the right antibiotics.

Another initiative, funded by £10m contributions from the UK and Saudi Arabia, will see the establishment of a global independent body on AMR.

“This will be modeled on other expert bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” Davies said. “We need an independent scientific panel to assess the evidence on antibiotic resistance and help set targets.”

The London conference will also present updated evidence on the impact of antimicrobial resistance on global health and economic activity. Estimates published in Lord Jim O’Neill’s 2016 AMR report for the British government are still cited worldwide to illustrate the potential scale of the problem – particularly the prediction that at current trends AMR will kill 10 million people annually and The global economy will cost a cumulative $100 trillion by 2050.

These numbers are now believed to be overestimated, according to preliminary, unpublished results of separate studies led by Anthony McDonnell of the Center for Global Development in Washington and Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle.

According to Murray, deaths directly attributable to AMR could increase from the current 1.25 million to 2 million per year by 2050. “This is similar to the impacts we expect from climate change,” he said.

However, a reduction in the estimated impact of AMR is not a reason to ease up on the fight against superbugs, McDonnell said: “The gains from combating AMR will be far greater than the cost of the investment.”

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