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Antimicrobial Resistance

Volume 661: debated on Thursday 6 June 2019

Antimicrobial resistance is a major global health threat and tackling it is a UK priority. DFID works alongside the Department of Health and Social Care and other Departments to support research on and development of new antimicrobials and diagnostic tools and to reduce the need for antimicrobials by preventing infection and enabling prompt diagnosis and treatment.

The O’Neill review makes the case that high-income countries should help low-income countries do important mitigation works in this area, with one example being reducing pollution from pharmaceutical production facilities that give rise to superbugs, which can travel round the world, including to the UK. Will my right hon. Friend outline the work we are carrying out in this area?

Yes, but before doing so, I wish to pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s work and interest in this area. He may be familiar with this, but I would like to draw his attention to the Access to Medicine Foundation, which is jointly funded by DFID, the Dutch Government and the Gates Foundation. It focuses on low-income and middle-income countries, and I particularly draw his attention to its antimicrobial resistance benchmark of 30 pharmaceutical companies, which prompts the pharmaceutical industry to do much more to bring AMR under control, including by reducing pharmaceutical pollution from the undertakings it operates.

In some countries, 80% of the total consumption of antibiotics is in the animals sector. What are we doing to support the World Health Organisation’s recommendations on stopping really important antibiotics being used for growth promotion and disease prevention in animals, rather than for their proper use, which is to treat disease?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right on that. The use of antimicrobials for food animals in this country is falling, and of course the use of antimicrobials for veterinary purposes features in the Government’s strategy “Tackling antimicrobial resistance”, which was published in January. She will also be aware that it is important to address this particular aspect of AMR, not least to address our commitments under sustainable development goal 3, which is to do with health and wellbeing.

Drug-resistant tuberculosis kills around a quarter of a million people a year, and there are half a million new cases a year and rising. Do the Government accept that full replenishment of the Global Fund will be essential if this global health threat is to be beaten?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight TB. He will be aware of the various funds to which the UK contributes to address this global scourge, and that includes contributions to the Global Fund’s efforts to discover 150 million undiscovered cases of TB worldwide, on which it has made some inroads. My right hon. Friend will not expect me to commit here and now to the sixth replenishment, but he will be aware that we have been at the forefront of encouraging countries to do so. I expect us to be positive—as we were for the fifth replenishment—in Lyon in October.