'Superbug' review calls for tests before antibiotic prescriptions

19 May 2016

The long-awaited final blueprint for tackling antimicrobial resistance calls for antibiotics not to be prescribed without a test to ensure they are needed, and proposes financial incentives for pharmaceutical companies to develop new drugs.

Without action, the global financial cost of antimicrobial resistance (which includes antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals) will be a loss of 10 million lives a year by 2050; according to the report’s author, Lord O’Neill. 

Lord O’Neill, who was commissioned by David Cameron in 2014 to write the review said: “The actions that I’m setting out today are ambitious in their scope – but this is a problem which is well within our grasp to solve if we take action now.”

To stop antibiotics being treated ‘like sweets’ Lord O’Neill said that: “By 2020 it should be mandatory to use rapid diagnostics before antibiotics are prescribed.”

He also proposes an urgent global public awareness campaign so that the public really understand the AMR problem, and is calling for bans on the widespread use of antibiotics on animals. Late last year bugs resistant to Colistin, one of the antibiotics of last resort, were found in China, where the drug has been used in farm animals.

Alongside lowering the use of antimicrobials, the supply of antimicrobials needs to increase, and the report argues that the pharmaceutical industry ‘pay or play’; they must either research and develop new antibiotics or fund other companies to do so. In response to the pay or play idea, Director of research, medical and innovation at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, Dr Virginia Acha said: “Putting the onus on any one group will not solve the problem and is not a sustainable solution.

The final review released today built on eight interim reports assessing how AMR can be tackled globally. Commenting on the report, the Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, Prof Mark Baker said: “The time for talking is over. This review should be read as a call for action.” 

Last year PHG Foundation undertook a comprehensive review of the field of pathogen genomics, including the impact genomics could have on the understanding and management of antimicrobial resistance, and the need for a cross-species approach to pathogen genomics. Among the recommendations was the need for coordinated and consistent approach into how and when genomic technologies are used as part of an antimicrobial resistance strategy.

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