UK-based initiative, Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, want drug companies to invest $2b in researching antibiotics that will be effective against resistant strains of bacteria.
Immunity of bacteria to antibiotics is a result of evolutionary selection. If a host is treated with an antibiotic such as Pennicillin, only the bacteria which are immune to Pennicillin will survive treatment. These bacteria, although small in number, will be released back into the environment and spread.
Overprescription or the prescription of wrong antibiotics increase the amount of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, as does use of antibiotic use in the meat industry. Many of the same antibiotics used by doctors on patients are also used by farmers on livestock.
Review on Antimicrobial Resistance are offering one-off payments to companies which successfully develop most-needed antibiotics. The $37b pool of prize money would come from governments worldwide and be spread out over 10 years.
Jim O’Neill, a published economist and the initiative’s chairman, says that the sum pales in comparisson to the cost of antibiotic resistance.
“We’ve estimated if we don’t do these kind of things, it’s going to cause world GDP to be $100 trillion smaller than would otherwise be the case in 35 years’ time.”
The idea would also remove the commercial incentive for drugs firms to sell as many antibiotics as possible.
The UK’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, John Watson, say the world needs to work on the demand side of the problem, as well as supply.
“We need to first and foremost prevent people getting infected in the first place, and secondly to ensure we make very best use of the antibiotics we’ve got, that we preserve those antibiotics.“
According to the WHO, three quarters of countries have no plan to deal with growing antibiotic resistance.
Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba reports from London, UK