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The Society of Biology welcomes the publication of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee’s report Ensuring access to working antimicrobials.

This report is the outcome of an inquiry into antimicrobial resistance held last year to which the Society of Biology submitted written evidence and was represented during the oral evidence sessions by Dr Pat Goodwin, member of council and honorary treasurer of the Society.

The report calls for the Government to take immediate and decisive action, particularly regarding the stewardship of current antimicrobial agents and the development of new treatments. Government is urged to undertake immediate scoping of pricing alternatives, and to demonstrate how they plan to incentivise organisations to invest in new antimicrobials on a global basis. The report emphasises that the life sciences sector must be encouraged to re-engage in this field before the pipeline of antimicrobial agents runs dry. The Committee also highlight the need for the development of rapid diagnostics to ensure that antibiotic prescribing is founded on good diagnoses.

The Committee’s recommendations are in line with the Society of Biology’s call for the UK Government to act immediately to halt the insidious spread of strains of bacteria which are resistant to multiple antibiotics. Antimicrobial resistance cannot be eradicated but the Society believes that it can be mitigated via a multi-faceted approach including improving infection prevention and control measures, optimising prescribing practices and prioritising research and development.

This publication from the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee comes after a number of recent high-profile announcements about antimicrobial resistance. Last week the Prime Minister highlighted the threat of antimicrobial resistance and announced a review, welcomed by the Society, into why no new classes of antibiotics have been discovered in the past 25 years. Earlier in June, the winner of the Longitude Prize 2014 was revealed to be antibiotics; this is a £10 million prize fund which will specifically focus on the development of rapid diagnostics to distinguish between bacterial and viral infections.

“The urgency of the need to address antimicrobial resistance cannot be stressed enough” says Dr Mark Downs, chief executive of the Society of Biology. “We hope that these recent announcements signal a change from the consideration of antimicrobial resistance as a niche issue for health professionals and scientists to it being an issue of paramount national and international importance on which rapid, co-ordinated action must be taken.”

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.