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Royal Society calls on UK Government to take action on antibiotic resistance ahead of G7 summit

29 April 2015

Royal Society calls on UK Government to take action on antibiotic resistance, tropical diseases, and the future of the ocean ahead of G7 summit.

Today the national science academies of the G7 countries, including the Royal Society in the UK, handed three statements to their respective governments for discussion during the G7 summit at Schloss Elmau in early June 2015. The papers on antibiotic resistance, neglected and poverty-related diseases, and the future of the ocean were drawn up by the seven national academies under the aegis of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.

The G7 academies call for a comprehensive strategy to tackle health threats from infectious diseases; progress toward preventing, controlling and eliminating neglected tropical diseases; and steps to place the use and protection of the oceans on a sustainable footing.

Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society, said:

 “People are starting to wake up to the fact that the overuse of antibiotics and a failure to invest in new treatments are leading us to a world without the tools that many doctors take for granted today. If we are to avoid a situation where people are dying of infections that are easily treated now, nations around the world, led by the G7 countries, need to act now.

This is why the national science academies of the G7 countries have chosen to highlight antibiotic resistance, alongside treatments for neglected tropical diseases and the impact of human activities on marine systems, as issues for urgent discussion at the upcoming G7 summit.

Science has an important role to play in tackling these issues but this cannot happen without the support and leadership of the G7 governments.”

The three statements are as follows:

Infectious Diseases and Antimicrobial Resistance: Threats and Necessary Actions

The first statement concerns the rising number of infections worldwide caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In parallel, the number of effective antibiotics is falling steadily. The G7 academies call for (1) accelerating research and production of new antimicrobial agents, vaccines and diagnostics, (2) prioritising the research agenda to fill knowledge gaps for key diseases, (3) installing global surveillance programmes, (4) raising awareness in society, and (5) planning for a coordinated rapid response in the face of major epidemics. 

Read the statement (PDF)

Neglected Tropical Diseases

The second statement concerns tropical neglected diseases (NTD) that often affect people in poorer parts of the world, such as African sleeping sickness, river blindness, and dengue fever. The Ebola epidemic in West Africa highlights the possible consequences of an outbreak of a disease that is well known but for which there is a lack of reliable vaccines or drugs. The G7 academies call for (1) increasing efforts to empower and build capacity in affected countries to deal with these diseases, (2) intensifying research on NTDs, (3) developing and delivering affordable and accessible treatments, and (4) accounting fully for NTDs in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Read the statement (PDF)

Future of the Ocean: Impact of Human Activities on Marine Systems

The third topic concerns marine pollution by heavy metals and plastic waste. Particularly pressing issues are the acidification and warming of the ocean due to climate change, and over-fertilisation from nitrogen used in agriculture. The G7 academies call for (1) changing the course of nations’ CO2 emissions, (2) reducing and further regulating man‐made pollution of the sea, (3) ending overfishing and preserving marine biodiversity and ecosystem function through research‐based management, and (4) enhancing international scientific cooperation to better predict, manage and mitigate future changes in the ocean and their impacts on human societies and the environment.

Read the statement (PDF)

The academies of sciences of the G7 have been supporting the summit meeting of their heads of state and government for ten years. In the run-up to the summit, they consider pressing issues that are related to the agenda of the meeting but that go beyond it in scope and that need to be addressed multilaterally. On each occasion, it is the host nation’s academy that assumes the role of coordinator – meaning that this year it is the Leopoldina, which also coordinated preparations for the scientific advisory process in the run-up to the G8 summit in Heiligendamm in 2007. Back then, the academies submitted reports on sustainability, energy efficiency, climate change mitigation, and protection of intellectual property.