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A continued rise in antimicrobial resistance could lead to the deaths of 10 million people every year and a significant reduction in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2050, costing the world up to 100 trillion USD (£63 trillion), according to the first report by the UK prime minister appointed O’Neill commission, released today.

The Society of Biology welcomes the report, Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations, which aims to build the evidence base for urgent action on AMR by highlighting the economic impact, an area as yet under-researched. The report suggests that, if left unaddressed, antimicrobial resistance could lead to 10 million deaths per year from resistant infections, compared to around 700,000 now. This figure would be more than the number of predicted deaths from cancer.

The O’Neill commission, chaired by leading economist Jim O’Neill and supported by the Wellcome Trust, aims to explore five themes over the course of its review, starting with the report released today.

  1. The impact of antimicrobial resistance on the world’s economy if the problem is not tackled
  2. How we can change our use of antimicrobial drugs to reduce the rise of resistance, including the game-changing potential of advances in genetics, genomics and computer science
  3. How we can boost the development of new antimicrobial drugs
  4. The potential for alternative therapies to disrupt the rise in resistance and how these new ideas can be boosted
  5. The need for coherent international action that spans drugs regulation, and drugs use across humans, animals and the environment

This follows on from the work that Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, has done to highlight antimicrobial resistance as a ‘catastrophic threat’ to the world, akin to terrorism and climate change. After the publication of Dame Sally’s annual report in March 2013, antimicrobial resistance was proposed as an addition to the national risk register.

The Department for Health also published the first annual progress report on the UK 5 year AMR strategy today, which includes important achievements in the first year of the strategy and detail of future actions.

Dr Laura Bellingan FSB, director of science policy at the Society of Biology said:

"We welcome these announcements and are pleased to see the UK’s continuing leadership in attempting to tackle this global threat. Biological research is essential in the many approaches necessary to effectively manage the problem of AMR. We are working collaboratively with our Member Organisations and others as part of the Learned Societies Partnership on AMR, to assist research community engagement and knowledge sharing among academic, industry, and clinical groups."

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