Chemistry helps the fight against bacterial infections

Developing new antibiotics to tackle bacterial infections such as E.coli and MRSA is an important task. Open Access Government highlights how vital this is and how chemistry plays a role in the development

Chemistry plays an important role in everyday life and the world round us, including our food and drink, cleaning products, and the clothes we wear. One area that uses chemistry as a key component is the development of new medicines and drugs.

In particular, chemistry plays a crucial role in the development of antibiotics for bacterial infections that not only create healthcare challenges in the UK but worldwide. Over the past 8 decades, the development of antibiotics is said to be one of the greatest success stories in medicinal chemistry. However, the fight against bacterial infections is a constant one, and pathogens are fighting back.

The Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) hopes to increase the awareness of the importance of antibiotic resistance both publicly and politically, as they believe it is one of the greatest risks to modern medicine.

Since 2000, the RSC reports that only 5 new classes of antibiotics have been discovered, and most of these do not work against gram-negative bacteria, such as E.coli and salmonella.

In order to develop new antibiotics to tackle global health challenges, further funding is needed. In 2014 the UK government announced a review of the economics of antimicrobial research. The Science and Technology Committee warned that the government needed to set clear responsibilities at all levels of the NHS and veterinary medicine to achieve better stewardship of the antimicrobial drugs vital in modern medicine.

At the time of the review, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee Andrew Miller MP said: “Antibiotic resistance cannot be entirely prevented, but it is a problem made worse by inappropriate use and poor stewardship of antibiotics in healthcare and farming.1

“We heard concerns, for instance, that antibiotics are often prescribed by GPs simply to achieve a placebo effect or placate patients with distressing symptoms. In farming meanwhile, we suspect that antibiotics may be routinely used in healthy animals.”

As well as creating greater awareness in regards to the prescription of antibiotics, the Committee of MPs also stressed that greater public awareness surrounding the necessity for stewardship of antibiotics is crucial in reducing pressure on practitioners to prescribe them.

“All levels of the NHS must be given clear responsibilities for stewardship of antibiotics and better monitoring and reporting put in place to bear down on unnecessary use of antibiotics,” added Andrew Miller MP.

In 2014 a report suggested that the true cost of antimicrobial resistance will be 300 million premature deaths and up to $100trn (£64trn) lost to the global economy if it is not tackled between now and 2050.

The review commissioned by the UK Prime Minister, RT Hon David Cameron MP, shows that the issue goes beyond health policy, and it makes sense for governments to act now.



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