The UK is planning a multi-pronged approach to tackle a growing threat of resistance to antibiotic drugs that is expected to see current treatments become useless within the next two decades.
In his first announcement as science minister Greg Clark said that all seven UK research councils will work together on a strategy to address the many and varied issues related to antimicrobial resistance.
“The united strategy announced today will provide a more coordinated approach to research gathering by bringing together leading cross-industry experts against what is one of today's greatest scientific problems,” said Clark, who replaced David Willetts in Prime Minister David Cameron's recent reshuffle.
Led by the Medical Research Council (MRC) the cross-council initiative will apply to medical researchers, biologists, engineers, vets, economists, social scientists, mathematicians and even designers.
According to the MRC, the UK alone has spent £275m on researching the issue since 2007 but “no effective solutions have been found”.
The problems extend beyond antibiotic treatments for diseases - antimicrobial resistance affects livestock infected with bacteria. Little is known about how human and animal resistance is related and the initiative will work to identify common characteristics in both humans and in farm and wild animals in order to find new drugs.
Scientists will also investigate how to track the extent of antimicrobial resistance in different environments, such as the sea, rivers, air, soil and in organisms, as well as in food, homes and hospitals.
In addition to the MRC the collaboration will include the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
The announcement follows the recent launch of a UK review into the research environment for companies working in antibiotic development and advise to healthcare professionals to limit the use of antibiotics to curb resistance problems.