Understanding why bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics, and how to slow development, and lessen the impact, of antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance.

Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria evolve in a way that renders antibiotic drugs used to kill them ineffective. Antimicrobial resistance concerns resistance not just to antibiotics, but also to other antimicrobials used to treat other microbes, such as viruses, fungi and parasites.

The world has been slow to recognize the scale of the problem and to act, even though the first record of resistance to quinine as an antimalarial was noted in the 19th century and the first case of penicillin resistance in a patient was recorded in 1947, just five years after the antibiotic went into wide-scale use.

Drug after drug encounters resistance and too few alternative treatments are coming forward. For example, the gonorrhoea bacterium has become very difficult to treat. Much modern surgery would be impossible if infections cannot be treated. Cancer chemotherapy and organ transplantation would no longer be viable. This is now a real risk, as bacteria continue to develop resistance while the flow of new antibiotics has diminished.

There is a need for better understanding of the factors driving antimicrobial resistance, as well as an assessment of its economic impact and security implications. This project, through collaboration between the human and animal health sectors, will address the following issues:

  • What actions do governments need to take regarding stewardship and infection control?
  • What needs to be done to stimulate new drug development?
  • What cross-sectoral actions, particularly in the food and agricultural sector, need to be taken?
  • What should governments do together to combat this global threat?

DRIVE-AB (Driving reinvestment in research and development and responsible antibiotic use) is a project composed of 15 public and 7 private partners from 12 countries that is funded by the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI): IMI is a joint undertaking between the European Union and the European Pharmaceutical Industry Association (EFPIA).

DRIVE-AB is tasked with defining responsible use of antibiotics, identifying the antibiotic-related public health priorities, calculating the societal value of having new antibiotics available for these priorities, developing and costing new economic models to promote the desired antibiotic innovation, and sustainable use of the resulting, novel antibiotics. The purpose of the project is to transform the way policymakers stimulate antibiotic innovation and to ensure that these new antibiotics are used sustainably and available equitably.

The Centre on Global Health Security is working in partnership with the consortium to provide expert input and oversee messaging and communications for the project under the scope of work package 3b. The Centre was also instrumental in arranging the mid-term DRIVE-AB conference in Amsterdam, and is organising the final conference in Brussels in September 2017.

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