Antibiotic resistance in China: Launching the prize in Asia

08 Sep 2015

Written by British Embassy Beijing

Today the UK’s Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Mark Walport launched the £10m Longitude Prize in China at a science event on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) at the British Ambassador’s Residence in Beijing.

Speaking to life science companies, innovators, academics and health officials, Sir Mark emphasised the importance of tackling AMR, widely acknowledged to be one of the biggest global health threats of the 21st century. The misuse and overuse of antibiotics means that common infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis are becoming increasingly resistant to existing treatments, which in some cases no longer work at all. Other speakers included UK Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbons, Dr Sun Jing from Peking Union School of Public Health, and Peking University First Hospital Professor Zheng Bo.

The size of China’s health system makes surveillance of antibiotic use challenging. China has 300,000 hospitals and clinics and 2.6 million doctors. The rate of drug resistance for E.Coli in blood is three times that in the UK, and 6.8% of tuberculosis cases are multidrug resistant (compared to 2% in most developed countries).

One way of tackling this will be through developing diagnostic tools that allow doctors to administer the right antibiotics at the right time, reducing overuse, and this is what the Longitude Prize aims to promote.

Nigel Gibbens highlighted that AMR also needs to be tackled through a ‘One Health’ approach that captures the human, animal and agricultural dimensions of the issue, since drug-resistant microbes and resistant genes circulate between humans, animals, water and the broader environment, presenting a serious threat to public health.

The UK and China have been working together on AMR since 2013. The UK held an inaugural AMR conference in March 2014 in partnership with Peking First Hospital, and the countries co-run a series of projects which look at different aspects of AMR.

Sir Mark said: “Anti-microbial resistance is one of the most urgent health challenges of our time, and I hope the Longitude Prize will inspire innovators in China, the UK and across the world to develop tools to solve this problem.”

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