Less than 1 percent of UK public research funding spent on antibiotic research in past 5 years

July 25, 2014, Lancet

Less than 1% of research funding awarded by public and charitable bodies to UK researchers in 2008 was awarded for research on antibiotics, according to new research published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

The study, which is the first detailed assessment of public and charitable funding to UK researchers focusing on bacteriology and antibiotic research, suggests that present levels of funding for antibiotic research in the UK are inadequate, and will need to be urgently increased if the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance is to be tackled effectively by UK researchers.

According to lead author Professor Laura Piddock, of the University of Birmingham, UK, "The message that antibacterial (ie, antibiotic) drug resistance has become a world health crisis has been brought to global attention by WHO, the European Union (EU), the World Economic Forum, and, most recently, the UK Chief Medical Officer. As a world leader in biomedical research, UK research has an important part to play in tackling this crisis. However, our study clearly shows that the proportion of public and charitable funding for research into new antibiotics, understanding resistance mechanisms and ways of tackling resistance are inadequate for the size of the task."

Professor Piddock and her colleague analysed funding databases for the UK's main research funding organisations, finding that of £13,8 billion total available research funding, £269 million (1,9%) was awarded to bacteriology projects, and around a third of this (£95 million or 0,7% of total funding) was awarded for research on antibiotics. Additionally, £181 million in EU funding was awarded to antibiotic research consortia including researchers based within the UK, including two EU Innovative Medicines Initiative awards, totalling £85 million.

While this article focused exclusively on research funding for antibiotics, previous studies have shown that funding for other antimicrobials (antifungals and antivirals) is similarly low as a proportion of total funding.

As well as demonstrating that the proportion of research funding given for UK antibiotic research will need to increase, the authors suggest that publically available, subject-specific, funding databases will allow investment in priority areas to be tracked in future.

"Since 2011, most new EU has focused on public–private partnerships with industry", adds Professor Piddock. "However, an increased understanding about antibiotic resistance is needed, not least to inform strategies to both minimise and prevent antibiotic-resistant bacteria arising when new treatments become available."

In a linked Comment, Dr Michael G Head from the Farr Institute, University College London, UK, said "The private sector needs to be more transparent about how much they invest in areas related to antibiotics (generation of new therapeutics being an obvious and particularly important area), so that their data can be similarly analysed in detail. Efforts to document the investments of other countries regarding antibiotic resistance research would be beneficial and would allow funders and policymakers to chart the optimum future direction of research money. Metrics to establish the true burden of and methods also to assess the likely effect of other types of research are needed; for example, preventive research such as vaccine development will affect future burdens of bacterial infections and resistance."

Explore further: High doses of antibiotics may have the potential to promote increased cross-resistance

Related Stories

High doses of antibiotics may have the potential to promote increased cross-resistance

June 24, 2014
Antibiotic resistance has become an increasing public health concern, with MRSA infections and last lines of antibiotic drug treatments having to be increasingly deployed in hospitals and clinics.

The UK is not investing enough in research into multi-drug resistant infections, say researchers

September 12, 2013
Although emergence of antimicrobial resistance severely threatens our future ability to treat many infections, the UK infection-research spend targeting this important area is still unacceptably small, say a team of researchers ...

CDC addresses burden, threat of antibiotic resistance

January 6, 2014
(HealthDay)—The burden and threats posed by antibiotic resistance infections are discussed in a report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Sewage treatment contributes to antibiotic resistance

July 21, 2014
Wastewater treatment plants are unwittingly helping to spread antibiotic resistance, say scientists.

Joining forces globally against drug resistant bacteria

April 2, 2014
Antibiotics have saved millions of lives from once deadly infectious diseases. But, misuse of antibiotics and other antimicrobials in humans and animals has led to bacteria evolving resistance.

Can your pet give you an antibiotic-resistant disease?

June 11, 2014
You may think twice before letting your dog give you a big slobbery kiss following the funding of new research into how pets may transmit antibiotic resistant infections to humans.

Recommended for you

New approach could help curtail hospitalizations due to influenza infection

January 18, 2018
More than 700,000 Americans were hospitalized due to illnesses associated with the seasonal flu during the 2014-15 flu season, according to federal estimates. A radical new approach to vaccine development at UCLA may help ...

Flu may be spread just by breathing, new study shows; coughing and sneezing not required

January 18, 2018
It is easier to spread the influenza virus (flu) than previously thought, according to a new University of Maryland-led study released today. People commonly believe that they can catch the flu by exposure to droplets from ...

Certain flu virus mutations may compensate for fitness costs of other mutations

January 18, 2018
Seasonal flu viruses continually undergo mutations that help them evade the human immune system, but some of these mutations can reduce a virus's potency. According to new research published in PLOS Pathogens, certain mutations ...

Zika virus damages placenta, which may explain malformed babies

January 18, 2018
Though the Zika virus is widely known for a recent outbreak that caused children to be born with microencephaly, or having a small head, and other malformations, scientists have struggled to explain how the virus affects ...

Study reveals how MRSA infection compromises lymphatic function

January 17, 2018
Infections of the skin or other soft tissues with the hard-to-treat MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria appear to permanently compromise the lymphatic system, which is crucial to immune system function. ...

Fresh approach to tuberculosis vaccine offers better protection

January 17, 2018
A unique platform that resulted in a promising HIV vaccine has also led to a new, highly effective vaccine against tuberculosis that is moving toward testing in humans.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.