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This morning, Prime Minister David Cameron spoke of the need for action to address the threat of antimicrobial resistance, and announced a review into why no new classes of antibiotics have been discovered in the past 25 years.

Cameron said "if we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine where treatable infections and injuries will kill once again."

The review, led by economist Jim O’Neill will examine the increase in drug-resistant strains of bacteria, how governments can incentivise pharmaceutical companies to invest in the discovery of new antibiotics, and the over-use of antibiotics globally.

Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England, has described antimicrobial resistance as a ‘catastrophic threat’ to the world, akin to terrorism and climate change. Indeed, 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 pharmaceutical industry is vital in the fight against antibiotic resistance. Increased focus and spending on the development of new antibiotics will be necessary. However, a perceived financial disincentive exists as any new therapy developed is likely to be shelved for as long as possible to avoid the build-up of resistance. Even when it is eventually used, a new antibiotic would be prescribed only for short periods of treatment rather than for months or years.

The Society of Biology welcomes this announcement and is pleased to see the UK taking the lead in this global problem.

The Society of Biology is working with the Biochemical Society, the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, the British Pharmacological Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Society for Applied Microbiology and the Society for General Microbiology as part of an Anti-Infective Technologies and Strategies Policy Working Group. 

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