Leonardo DiCaprio is a climate change hero but who will save him from the AMR crisis?
When Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar for his role in The Revenant he used the platform to reach a massive worldwide audience to urge more to be done to combat climate change - one of the major scientific issues of our time.
The A-lister’s comments have been well-publicised and the cause he has chosen has been a perennial warning in the media for decades.
But there is, what Prime Minister David Cameron has called, an “almost unthinkable scenario” looming that could be considered to be a bigger threat to humanity.
It is not an inconvenient truth and a fact that Hollywood has not ignored in its big budget films where a hero battles to save a stricken town – or even country – from the spread of a deadly virus. The reality is much more harrowing.
In the UK, 5,000 people die each year because of antimicrobial resistance, which threatens prevention and treatment of infections caused by fungi, bacteria, parasites and viruses.
In Europe, and increasing year on year, there are 25,000 deaths and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for action across all government sectors and society to tackle this public health crisis as we enter a post-antibiotic era.
In 2012, the WHO reports, there was a gradual increase in resistance to HIV drugs, although not reaching critical levels. However, there have been reports of resistance to drugs used in early treatment since then which is further proof of the natural phenomenon of resistant strains as we evolve.
The new-thinking required must be about vaccines and antibiotic alternatives. At the end of last year a bacteria resistant to the highly-toxic ‘last antibiotic of last resort’ Colistin was found in the UK and China which is a frightening development and proves how quickly the problem is escalating.
Respected economist Lord Jim O’Neill has been charged with finding a solution to a broken business model: selling antibiotics drives resistance and the return on investment, compared to other drug areas, is low and unattractive.
Evolution in the industry is happening but innovation is lagging behind in R&D, the solution needs to be found because the evidence of a severe impact on humanity is mounting up.
We are at the mercy of nature. Yet, it is human nature to protect and to create and these two themes are at the heart of our technology that gives faster and safer production of raw chemicals into quality, effective medicines.
The bond between science and industry must be strengthened, particularly if the $2bn Innovation Fund for global antimicrobial resistance, funded by the pharmaceutical industry, as proposed by Lord O’Neill becomes a reality.
It is with technological advancement and scientific research that a solution to this AMR crisis will be found and the final publications from Lord O’Neill are expected this summer, which must lead to change for how Big Pharma makes and spends its money.
The consequences of delay and not grasping change are dire.
Studies being used to underpin the report estimate that 10 million people are expected to die prematurely because of drug resistance over the next 35 years and cost up to $100 trillion if not controlled.
The AMR problem may not have an Oscar-winning star championing the work done in the field or calling for more to be done to find a resolution.
But the leadership and innovation from scientists and inventors will ensure that we will not lead to the feared doomsday.
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