The Director of the US Centers for Disease Control said recently, ““we have a very serious problem, and we need to sound an alarm.” The Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies, had recently described antibiotic resistance as “a risk as serious as terrorism” . Both were talking about bacteria resistant to carbepenam antibiotics which are virtually the last line in our battle against bacterial infections. The “catastrophic threat” (as another prominent public health official put it) is explained in this excellent news piece from the latest edition of Nature.

Nature also points out that drug companies are reluctant to pour vast resources into developing new antibiotics because their use would be so tightly controlled and, thus, so rare. No-one could recover the investment. It may be this very lack of commercial imperatives that has allowed the European Union, through the Directorate General responsible for research, innovation and science, to team up with five pharma companies and a group of universities in the catchily-named New Drugs for Bad Bugs (ND4BB) programme. It is an impressive and innovative programme but it may not be a substitute for creating real rewards: an advance market commitment to pay €10,000 a dose for a new antibiotic meeting certain criteria, maybe?

To hear an excellent BBC programme on the long-term future of containing microbial resistance follow this earlier posting.