Government is treating the symptoms and not fighting the causes of infectious diseases, say scientists
The Microbiology Awareness Campaign gathered momentum yesterday at the House of Lords when scientists informed Peers and MPs that new and re-emerging infectious diseases could spell trouble if not tackled soon. The experts said that without targeted government funding for microbiological research, serious health and economic problems may lie ahead for the UK.
The event was hosted by Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, who began by expressing his concern about the closures and cutbacks in many research centres, in spite of “science funding assessed as secure”.
Top UK microbiologists put some well known human and animal health issues into context and set out what needs to be done to help combat the microbes causing the most serious diseases - MRSA, tuberculosis, HIV, avian influenza.
Tuberculosis infections are increasing in the UK and we are constantly under threat from malaria. New vaccines are desperately needed to protect people worldwide from these ancient diseases. “Tuberculosis has killed more adults than any other pathogen and malaria kills more children than any other microbe,” explained Professor Adrian Hill, University of Oxford.
Sexually transmitted infections are also increasing and the biggest threat is from HIV/AIDS. “More people have died of HIV since 26 December 2004, than because of the Asian Tsunami,” according to Professor Robin Weiss, University College London.
Dr Jodi Lindsay of St George’s Hospital Medical School in London emphasised the economic and health costs of treating MRSA infections in the UK. She stressed that as MRSA are becoming more dangerous and more resistant, with no new drugs or vaccines available, ring-fenced funding for research was essential. “The current number of grants actively supporting research on MRSA is zero and seven years after the National Audit Office highlighted the lack of research funding for antibiotic resistance, little has changed,” said Dr Lindsay.
Professor Sir William Stewart, Chairman of the Health Protection Agency Board, added that it is a tough job to stay ahead of the microbes. “The bugs are cleverer than us and there are trillions of them. They can shape the economy – the impact of an avian influenza outbreak could be huge – and they shape the world.”
Dr Ian Gibson, MP closed with his dream of having a scientific literate civil service.
The Microbiology Awareness Campaign event was organised by the Society for General Microbiology.
Faye Jones | alfa
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