David Cameron’s call for global action to tackle antibiotic resistance has been welcomed by the veterinary profession, but experts warn that a focus on new drugs is not enough to save us from returning to “the dark ages of medicine”.
No new classes of anti-microbial drugs have come onto the market for more than 25 years, according to the Prime Minister.
However, the Bella Moss Foundation and its advisors warned that a new generation of antibiotics could simply result in new resistant pathogens, and without also developing and implementing strategies to reduce antimicrobial use, we could find ourselves in exactly the same position in just a few years.
BMF secretary Mark Dosher said: “The production of future generations of these drugs is a double-edged sword – the creation of new drugs encourages their usage, but through adaptation bacteria will start to build up resistance – it’s inevitable.
“A one health approach is needed – humans and animals share common problems when it comes to antimicrobial resistance (AMR), therefore they need a common solution – yes, new antibiotics can be part of the solution but this can’t just be solved by pharmacology alone.”
Mr Dosher said broader factors like hygiene and the environment also need to be taken into account: “There are things we can do now with the environments in hospitals that could have an effect today – such as paint that kills bacteria when activated by light, or ventilation additives.”
Mr Dosher said the Prime Minister’s task force was “a good idea” as long as it doesn’t solely focus on the cost and regulation of new drugs.
He said: “Just concentrating on financial incentives for health companies to create new drugs would be a mistake in the long-term. Politicians and human healthcare and veterinary professionals need to look at collaboration and the big picture.
“We need to be looking 50-100 years into the future – anything other than that will just repeat mistakes with AMR that have already been made.”
Edinburgh academic and BMF advisor Tim Nuttal added: “Without also developing and implementing strategies to reduce antimicrobial use, to use these drugs more wisely, and to develop non-antibiotic ways to manage bacterial infections, we could find ourselves in exactly the same position. It is also disappointing that the One Health nature of antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance hasn’t been given more prominence.”
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) also welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement, and called for the review into why so few antimicrobial drugs have been introduced in recent years to extend to animal health.
BVA past-president Peter Jones said: “Antibiotics are vital medicines for both human and animal health and we are working hard to safeguard their use for the future, but it is clear that we must also find ways to develop new antibiotics in veterinary medicine.
“The development pipeline for new antibiotics in both human and animal health is at an all-time low and so we welcome measures to investigate how to manage this trend.”