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An extensive review of the problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) led by Lord Jim O’Neill has concluded by setting out a plan to prevent medicine ‘being cast back into the dark ages’ and requiring investment of $30 billion dollars.

Inappropriate use of antibiotics whether for people or animals, and whether prescribed by medical and veterinary professionals or over the counter, leads to bacteria becoming resistant to drugs. If unchecked this could mean that much of modern medicine becomes useless.

The review, which was set up in 2014, says that without immediate global action the situation will get worse; with 10 million people predicted to die every year from resistant infections by 2050 (one person every three seconds).

The review recommends a series of measures to restrict demand for antibiotics, including restriction on their use in farming, better hygiene, a focus on improving diagnostics and increased use of vaccines. It also suggests a tax on antibiotics to pay for the development of new drugs, and primarily a widespread new public engagement programme to raise awareness of the issue.

Dr Mark Downs CBiol FRSB, chief executive of the Royal Society of Biology said:
“The O’Neill report rightly highlights that recognising and confronting this reality is a key ingredient in tackling the huge threat that AMR poses to public health. There are unlikely to be any quick fixes to the problems of resistance, including through the development of new antibiotics, but global collaboration and enhanced development capacity is essential for success. It may be a long road but it is vital that focus on the goal of combating a growth of AMR infections doesn’t waiver.

“The UK has shown leadership in promoting this issue and it must continue to champion it. The RSB along with six other organisations has formed the Learned Societies Partnership on Antimicrobial Resistance (LeSPAR) to promote interdisciplinary research and facilitate knowledge sharing between academia, policy makers, industry, clinicians and the public. By networking scientists we aim to encourage the exchange of knowledge, expertise and insight to tackle this major problem.”

Find out more about the Society’s work on Antimicrobial Resistance.