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Government announces £1m funding boost for antimicrobial resistance research


By James Hacker
3 June 2021

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An extra £1m is being invested in research to support the development of treatments for antibiotic-resistant infections, the Government has announced.

The investment will support programmes carried out by the WHO’s Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP), including the development of the SECURE initiative – a programme aimed at expanding access to essential antibiotics.

This will include new antibiotics to combat drug-resistant infections, as well as existing medicines that are not widely available or suffer from frequent supply issues and shortages.

According to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), drug-resistant infections kill an estimated 700,000 people a year, with this expected to increase exponentially as drug resistance grows.

Not addressing the issue could ‘result in a future where we are unable to treat common infections such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections and infections in newborns’, it said.

A WHO report on antimicrobial resistance in 2019 also warned that drug-resistant diseases could cause 10 million deaths each year by 2050 and damage to the economy ‘as catastrophic as the 2008-2009 global financial crisis’.

Seamus O’Brien, GARDP director of research and development, said Covid-19 had demonstrated the ‘critical importance of preventing and preparing for pandemics, including the pandemic of drug-resistant infections’.

He added: ‘By investing an additional £1m, the UK is again demonstrating leadership in efforts to accelerate the development and delivery of life-changing and life-saving treatments for every person who needs them.’

This comes as a recent study warned that the specific targets on antimicrobial stewardship should be integrated into Covid-19 patient care pathways, after it found that the majority of 49,000 Covid patients hospitalised in the first wave were given antibiotics despite not having a confirmed bacterial infection.

The study, published in The Lancet Microbe, found that among patients with available data, 37% of 36,145 had received antimicrobials in the community before hospital admission, and 85% of 46,051 patients received one or more antibiotics at some point during admission.

 Meanwhile, microbiological investigations were recorded for only 8,649 patients, with ‘clinically significant’ Covid-19-related results recorded in 1,107.

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