The world could soon be “cast back into the dark ages of medicine” unless action is taken to tackle the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, says U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, who has announced a review of why so few anti-microbial drugs have been introduced in recent years. 

Talking to the BBC, he said: “If we fail to act, we are looking at an almost unthinkable scenario where antibiotics no longer work and we are cast back into the dark ages of medicine where treatable infections will kill once again.”

He announced the creation of a global panel bringing together experts from science, finance, industry and global health. The panel will analyse three key issues: the increase in drug-resistant strains of bacteria, the "market failure" which has seen no new classes of antibiotics for more than 25 years, and the over-use of antibiotics globally.

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Must include veterinary health

The initiative has been welcome by the British Veterinary Association (BVA), which has called for the review to be extended to animal health. 

BVA President Robin Hargreaves commented: “One of the greatest challenges to both animal and human health is the threat of antibiotic resistance, which has the potential to become a global catastrophe. To ensure healthy animals in the future we must ensure we safeguard veterinary medicines.“

Past BVA 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.”