Microbes that laugh at antibiotics: UK sinks £4.5m into China-Brit kill team

Will team up to defeat drug resistant critters

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British research councils are attempting to tackle the rising problem of microbial resistance by pumping £4.5m into six research partnerships between the UK and China.

The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, The Economic and Social Research Council and the Medical Research Council will be funded under the Newton Fund - a cash stash used to bolster research partnerships between the UK and partner countries.

The fund will go towards understanding the emergence and spread of bacteria, developing new treatments and improving health and agricultural systems.

Antibiotics were discovered in the 1940s, and have been used to treat or prevent many bacterial infections, including infections that may be contracted during surgical operations, tuberculosis and pneumonia.

Over time, frequent use has led to microbial resistance to antimicrobials – specifically, antibiotics – creeping up. Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis, for example, is spreading in some parts of the world. Antibiotics are no longer routinely given for common chest, throat or ear infections for fear of them becoming ineffective for more serious conditions. Doctors have already warned the public about the perils of microbial resistance that could render diseases such as “super gonorrhoea” untreatable.

Funding for Chinese researchers comes from The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC).

The Deputy Director General, Bureau of International Cooperation at the NSFC, Professor Lu Rongkai, said: “Antimicrobial resistance is now widely recognised as one of the most serious global threats to human health in the 21st centuries. These jointly awarded grants are expected to combat this problem in both China and UK, and even to promote global progress in human public health science.” ®


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