Friday, January 10, 2014

'Golden age' of antibiotics 'set to end'

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Far fewer pharmaceutical companies are working on new antibiotics than in the past

We cannot say we weren't warned. The growing threat of antibiotic resistant organisms is once again in the spotlight.

Prof Jeremy Farrar, the new head of Britain's biggest medical research charity the Wellcome Trust said it was a "truly global issue".

In his first major interview since taking up his post, Prof Farrar told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that the golden age of antibiotics could come to an end unless action is taken.

His comments echo those of England's Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies.

Last year she described the growing resistance to antibiotics as a "ticking time bomb", and said the danger should be ranked alongside terrorism on a list of threats to the nation.

Previous chief medical officers have also warned about the threat from pathogens - bacteria, viruses and parasites.

And G8 science ministers in London discussed the danger from drug resistant infectious agents when they met in June 2013.
'Older than humanity'

But the warnings actually started many years ago.

In 1998 a House of Lords report gave this stark assessment: "Antibiotic resistance threatens mankind with the prospect of a return to the pre-antibiotic era."

Most of us were born into a world containing antibiotics, so it is easy to feel they are permanent fixtures in the arsenal of medicines.

n fact penicillin did not go into widespread use until the 1950s.

You can visit Sir Alexander Fleming's tiny laboratory at St Mary's hospital in London where he made the discovery in 1928.

But whereas antibiotics have been around for less than a century, infectious agents are older than humanity, and are continually evolving.

Two bacterial infections illustrate the problem.

Multi-drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis is rising steadily worldwide.

For the rest of the story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25654112

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