Antibiotic resistance: global threat to public health

developing new antibiotics

Every day, antibiotics save many lives all over the world. They have become indispensable in contexts ranging from basic healthcare to advanced medicine. But what will happen if antibiotics stop working? Developing new, globally available antibiotics is not just a public health issue, it is also a critical factor for a globalised society. A new centre at Uppsala University is now bringing the combined forces of research, education and innovation to bear on the challenge of seeking solutions to antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance is a rapidly growing problem. In the EU alone, 25,000 people die every year because of infectious diseases against which antibiotics and other anti-infection pharmaceuticals are no longer effective. The annual number of global deaths has already reached 700,000 and by 2050 this figure may have increased to 10 million deaths at a cost approaching USD 100 trillion.

Sooner or later, bacteria develop resistance to all antibiotics. This means that new pharmaceutical products need to be developed all the time. However, pharmaceutical development is a protracted process that requires stable funding to maintain expertise and develop effective procedures. There is now a great and urgent need to stimulate research that can identify completely new antibacterial substances and to find alternative modes of antibacterial pharmaceutical development.

Uppsala University has built up a successful platform for antibiotics development. In addition to strong basic research in pharmaceutical development, microbiology and antibiotic resistance the University conducts internationally outstanding research in diagnostics, new financial models, law, clinical research, ethics, global health, sustainable development, behaviour and learning. The University also leads several major international, EU-funded research projects in the area of antibiotics. Several projects and networks operating here aim to find solutions to the growing problems associated with antibiotic resistance.

Uppsala Antibiotic Center is a new centre at Uppsala University for research, education and innovation focused on tackling and finding solutions to the global challenge of antibiotic resistance. The research aims for deeper knowledge on the development of resistance by bacteria, the use of available antibiotics and the development of new antibiotics.

The antibiotic challenge also involves studying how the social culture influences the use of antibiotics and how entrenched patterns of behaviour can be changed. ReAct is an Uppsala-based international network that has been an important international actor in recent years in attempts to influence antibiotic use from a health system perspective.

“Unless the obstacles to developing new antibiotics are overcome, antibiotic resistance will continue to be one of the greatest threats to healthcare throughout the world.”
Dan I. Andersson, Professor of Medical Bacteriology, Director of Uppsala Antibiotic Center

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Head of Development Office: Agneta Stålhandske