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Review on Antimicrobial Resistance

Volume 612: debated on Tuesday 5 July 2016

1. What plans the Government have to lead the international response to the recommendations of the final report of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, published in May 2016. (905653)

16. What plans the Government have to lead the international response to the recommendations of the final report of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, published in May 2016. (905668)

The O’Neill AMR review is galvanising global awareness, as I have seen for myself, and it is greatly to the Prime Minister’s credit that he showed the foresight to commission it. The UK continues to play a global leadership role on antimicrobial resistance. We co-sponsored the World Health Organisation’s 2015 global action plan on AMR, we created the Fleming fund to help poorer countries to tackle drug resistance, and we are now championing action, including taking forward the O’Neill review’s recommendations, through the United Nations, the G7, and the G20.

I recently met biotech firm Matoke Holdings, which has developed a new technology—reactive oxygen technology. It has found that this technology forms the basis of a whole new generation of antibiotics that has been proven to combat multi-resistant bacteria, including MRSA. This is an incredibly exciting development. Will my hon. Friend and her team agree to meet Matoke Holdings to hear about the new technology and the pace at which it has developed? What are the Government doing to support research into new antibiotics?

My hon. Friend will be aware that a key focus of the O’Neill review was how to incentivise the development of new antimicrobials. It is scary to think that there has not been a new class of antibiotics for some decades now. The Government are funding an extensive AMR research programme. Matoke Holdings has been in contact with the Department, and we are in the process of arranging a meeting to discuss reactive oxygen technology in the coming weeks. My ministerial colleague the Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences has indicated that he would also be happy to have such a meeting.

I recently hosted a parliamentary drop-in session to highlight the benefits of C-reactive protein testing as a way of reducing the number of antibiotics inappropriately prescribed in primary care. Will the Minister agree to look again at the case for rolling out CRP testing as standard across primary care as part of the Government’s strategy to tackle antimicrobial resistance?

My hon. Friend is right to champion these new technologies. In fact, the Department has already invested in research into CRP. We look forward to seeing what that brings and, in due course, to seeing how it might move forward. It is very much already on our radar.

There is an impending public health issue in this regard, not least with strains of gonorrhoea, for example, that are starting to show resistance to antibiotics. A number of doctors are incredibly concerned about this. What more can be done to incentivise research and development to ensure that this public health concern does not become a public health crisis?

The hon. Gentleman, who knows a great deal about these matters, is right. Incentivising discovery is absolutely at the heart of the O’Neill review. O’Neill has made a series of recommendations about unblocking the drugs pipeline, and we will respond to that in full. It is a critical issue. In the meantime, conservation of the antibiotics we have and sensible prescribing is critical to making sure that, as the hon. Gentleman says, drug-resistant strains of gonorrhoea, for example, do not take hold.

This is an incredibly important issue on which I urge the Minister to communicate with the public more effectively, because inappropriate use of antibiotics could have severe effects. Some of the medical interventions that are reliant on antibiotics, whether gut surgery, joint replacements, caesarean sections or chemotherapies, could become too dangerous to perform if we do not get this right.

That is exactly right. Things we take for granted now could become risky procedures again. Globally, old diseases could make a comeback because of drug resistance—diseases such as TB which, around the world, people are winning the battle against. This is why it is so important to pay tribute to the Prime Minister’s foresight in commissioning the independent review and taking this issue global. The Government, along with the chief medical officer, are championing this at an international level, but, at the same time, we are not resting closer to home, where we are working with GPs and so on to deal with the prescribing issue. However, it is a big challenge and the hon. Gentleman is right to highlight it.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is strong evidence that herbal medicine can help treat conditions currently treated by antibiotics, but there is a desperate need for more research? Is she also aware that homeopathic medicine can do the same, particularly with upper respiratory tract infections, and that homeopathic treatments are now the second largest medical system in the world, according to the World Health Organisation?

The Government are always interested in anything that can be proven to be cost-effective and efficacious.

Millions of people around the world are dying annually from resistant infections. In the light of that and the positive correlation between antibiotic resistance rates and antibiotic consumption, urgent action needs to be taken. What steps and cross-departmental work is the Minister taking to address the findings of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance and to reduce the unnecessary use of antimicrobials in agriculture?

There is consensus on the importance of this issue. It is worth highlighting the work that the Government are doing internationally, through the creation of the Fleming fund, in which we are investing £265 million, to help poorer countries to tackle drug resistance and to make sure that we have proper monitoring systems in place. Without a baseline to understand where we are even starting from, it is very difficult. We will respond more fully to all the issues highlighted by the hon. Lady when we respond formally to the O’Neill review, but it goes without saying that we are trying to take this work forward internationally and we are working towards further meetings at the United Nations this autumn.