Opinion Former Article

MRSA Action UK: Sue Fallon brings the human cost to the attention of government over ticking time bomb and lack of desperately needed antibiotics

MRSA Action UK Vice Chair Sue Fallon, helped to raise the plight faced by the NHS and health providers around the world, by telling her harrowing story to BBC reporter Jenny Hill yesterday. Tearful Sue told Jenny “The hardest thing is to have to tell your 12 year old daughter that her sister is dying.”

As Sue clutched the photo of Sammie aged just 17, she showed just how important it is to address the antibiotic crisis. Sammie died from MRSA aged 17 when she had a bone marrow sample taken from her hip. Poor infection control practice was probably to blame, as the resistant superbug MRSA took control of Sammie’s body. MRSA is just one of many resistant superbugs that we are facing and new antibiotics are needed to stop infections overwhelming patients like Sammie in the future.

Experts are warning that the NHS faces a “ticking time bomb”.

Professor Laura Piddock, president of the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, said health services faced a “near depletion” of effective antibiotics.

The NHS faces a ticking time bomb over the lack of modern antibiotics due to increasing resistance to infections, and must take immediate action to prevent an unprecedented crisis. The situation is so grave that experts believe urgent action is needed to accelerate the approved licensing process for new antibiotics, adopting similar regulatory procedures that produced antiviral therapies for the treatment of HIV/AIDS more speedily. Professor Laura Piddock, President of the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC), warned that that the near depletion of effective antibiotics will have a devastating impact on global health, and that we need to identify new ways of public/private partnership for their discovery, research and development. Earlier this month in a press release she said:

“The magnitude of the crisis we face becomes apparent when we note that 16 new antibacterial agents were approved and brought to market between 1983-1987, compared with less than four agents between 2008-12.

“The dearth of new antibiotics reaching the marketplace today potentially threatens not only the management of “superbugs”, such as NDM 1 producing E. coli and multi-drug resistant gonorrhea, but also the success of many routine treatments and procedures, from life-saving transplants and cancer chemotherapy, to joint replacements and therapies for cystic fibrosis sufferers. I fear there could be a return to a pre-antibiotic era where many people suffer or die from untreatable bacterial infections.”

A petition to 10 Downing Street, signed by researchers, scientists and clinicians working in the NHS, as well as the public, calls upon the government to:

· Identify opportunities to safely streamline and accelerate the licensing processes for new antibiotic agents

· Address and incentivise the commercial challenges faced by industry in developing and bringing new antibiotics to the marketplace.

· Encourage greater partnership working between pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies as well as academia in the UK to maximise the conversion of new discoveries into licensed antibiotics available for use on the NHS.

· Establish an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Antimicrobial Discovery, Research and Development.

We have created an antibiotic paradox where our modern healthcare system and medicine is at risk for future generations. We need to take the initiative and remember that in the battle against resistant bacteria, it’s not the strongest or fittest that survive, but those that are the most responsive to change.

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