UK and US partner to detect disease

11 June 2021 | Muriel Cozier

‘…we all know that antibiotic resistance is increasing all the time…’

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and the US National Centre for Epidemic Forecasting and Outbreak Analysis, have agreed a partnership to combat global pandemics and emerging health threats. The partnership will bolster disease surveillance, as well as genomic and variant sequencing worldwide. It will also establish an early warning system to detect diseases.

As part of this UK-US alliance, a new pathogen surveillance network will be tasked with spotting diseases before they spread, while also helping to enable the accelerated development of vaccines, treatments and tests. The international partners will work with other organisations; including the WHO and the Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation to develop global capacity for rapid genomic sequencing.

As well as collaborating, the UK Government added that it was also establishing a new Centre for Pandemic Preparedness. The Centre will lead the UK’s work to develop a global early warning system to detect the threat of new infectious diseases.

In the meantime, a scientist at the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), in Salisbury, has been working with antibiotic therapies in a bid to combat the bacterium that causes melioidosis, a disease prevalent especially in Southeast Asia and northern Australia. The disease kills 90,000 people and infects an estimated 165,000 people each year. The bacterium is resistant to several antibiotic therapies and treatment is complex.

The first phase of the research being carried by scientist, Adam Taylor, has focused on understanding how well existing antibiotics work. The second stage will aim to improve the effectiveness of these antibiotics by specifically targeting them to infected immune cells using antibodies. This approach has the potential to increase antibiotic effectiveness, reduce side effects, increase specificity and reduce overall antibiotic use during therapy.

Commenting Adam Taylor said ‘This work is absolutely crucial, we all know that antibiotic resistance is increasing all the time and the amount of new antibiotics cannot keep up with the pace of bacteria becoming resistant, so the global urgency is on to find new ways of treating antibacterial diseases. I am among only a few scientists currently carrying out this research with this particular disease and I’ve already seen some promising results.’

Initial results from Taylor’s PhD research, which is sponsored by the London School of Tropical Medicine, UK, are expected to be released during 2021.

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