The UK Department of Health and Social Care announced in August 2023 that it was supporting “state-of-the-art laboratories”, “cutting-edge” disease surveillance, and a “bigger global workforce” to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Through funding of up to £210 million from the government’s UK aid budget, the Fleming Fund will continue activities to fight AMR in countries across Asia and Africa over three years.  

The burden of AMR continues to grow, with around 1.27 million people dying each year as a result. 1 in 5 of those deaths are children under 5. The problem is global, and although this investment focuses on the African and Asian regions, AMR was found to have caused between 7,000 and 35,000 deaths in the UK. The announcement coincides with the G20 Health Ministers’ meeting in India.  

Strengthening and building  

The funding will “bolster” surveillance capacity in up to 25 countries where the threat and burden of AMR is considered the highest. These include Indonesia, Ghana, Kenya, and Papua New Guinea. More than 250 laboratories will be upgraded with “state-of-the-art equipment”, including new genome sequencing technology to help track bacterial transmission between humans, animals, and the environment.  

The funds are also intended to “strengthen the international health workforce” by supporting 20,000 training sessions for laboratory staff, pharmacists, and hospital staff. Over 200 Fleming Fund scholarships will be covered, to boost expertise across microbiology, AMR policy, and One Health.  

Stopping the silent killer 

Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, emphasised that AMR is a “silent killer” that poses a “significant threat”.  

“It’s vital it is stopped in its tracks and this record funding will allow countries most at risk to tackle it and prevent it from taking more lives across the world, ultimately making us safer at home.”  

He also referred to a government effort to “incentivise drug companies to develop new antibiotics”, suggesting that other G20 countries are looking to implement the example set by the UK. PharmaPhorum describes this model as a “subscription-based system”, but notes that “other countries in the G20 have not followed suit”.  

UK Special Envoy on AMR, Dame Sally Davies, is “proud and delighted” that the Fleming Fund will “continue to create real impact to tackle AMR and build pandemic preparedness on the ground across the world”. Dame Davies believes that “using data” we will “drive action and catalyse investment”.  

“This world-leading investment in AMR laboratories, workforce, and systems is a vital contribution to realise our vision of a world free of drug-resistant infection.”

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