March 01, 2016
2 min read

Wider vaccine usage only part of campaign against drug-resistant infections

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Wider use of vaccines — and increased investment to develop new ones — are among the steps needed to help stem the deadly rise in drug-resistant infections, according to a group commissioned in the United Kingdom to study antimicrobial resistance.

The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance warned in a report that the global community is not moving quickly enough on appropriate measures that could save millions of lives.

“The problem of drug-resistant infections could be compared to a slow-motion car crash — one that has sadly already begun,” Jim O’Neill, PhD, an economist and commercial secretary to H.M. Treasury who chairs the group, said in a news release.

More than 700,000 people worldwide die annually from drug-resistant infections, O’Neill said. However, that number is likely to rise dramatically over the next several decades, according to O’Neill’s group, which predicted in a 2014 report that annual deaths attributable to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) would reach 10 million by 2050.

In its most recent report, the group suggested tackling the issue in three ways:

  • use existing vaccines more widely in humans and animals, and improve their delivery;
  • renew motivation in the science of vaccines and other approaches, including a proposed $2 billion global innovation fund that would need long-term sustained funding; and
  • consider market interventions that reward developers for successful vaccines and other alternatives.

The pneumococcal conjugate vaccine as an example of how the use of an existing vaccine can combat drug resistance. Universal global coverage with the vaccine would largely prevent more than 800,000 annual deaths in children aged younger than 5 years from Streptococcus pneumoniae, the group said. It also could prevent 11.4 million days of antibiotic use among those children, increasing resistance.

Vaccine development also is critical, as there are none currently in use for the three “urgent” drug-resistance threats highlighted by the CDC — carbapenemase-producing bacteria (such as Escherichia coli), gonorrhea and Clostridium difficile — and too few candidates in clinical trials, the group said. Further, a new vaccine to fight the rise in multidrug-resistant tuberculosis remains years away and funding has declined, according to the group.

O’Neill will make final recommendations on a plan to tackle drug-resistant infections at a global level to United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron in May.

“Antibiotics are important to tackle this threat, but if we can encourage the development and use of vaccines and other alternatives, we give the world a better chance of beating drug-resistance,” O’Neill said. – by Gerard Gallagher


O’Neill J, et al. Review on antimicrobial resistance. Vaccines and alternative approaches: Reducing our dependence on antimicrobials. 2016. http:/ Accessed February 25, 2016.

O’Neill J, et al. Review on antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial resistance: Tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations. 2014. Accessed February 25, 2016.

Disclosure: Infectious Disease News was unable to confirm relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.