Some of the United Kingdom's top public health officers and scientists are calling for the creation of an organisation similar to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to bring together global expertise to fight the growing threat of antibiotic resistance.
This proposal, which was made in an article in Nature on 22 May, follows a recent WHO report that found growing antimicrobial resistance was threatening to make a wide range of drugs for common diseases useless.
"The absence of effective antibiotics will not happen tomorrow, but it will happen soon if we don't do something now," Jeremy Farrar, director of UK health research charity the Wellcome Trust and co-author of the Nature article, told a press conference at the Royal Society in London, United Kingdom, on 22 May.
The proposed international panel on antibiotic resistance would also act to reduce the availability of counterfeit antibiotics and the sale of over-the counter antibiotics in developing countries without mandatory prescriptions, the Nature article said.
Developing countries would need international support to buy diagnostic equipment and establish laboratories so they can quickly identify bacteria that are developing resistance and could become a global threat, said Mark Woolhouse, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom, and the other author of the Nature article.
Although this will require significant investment, Woolhouse told SciDev.Net he was optimistic this would be provided due to its worldwide benefits.
The money would probably come from UN agencies or the World Bank, Woolhouse said, but the funding model of the IPCC, to which national governments directly contribute, could also be "very appropriate", he added.
Woolhouse said the panel should include input from vets, microbiologists, epidemiologists, pharmacologists and experts in international law, as well as doctors.
"Currently - and this is a big issue - no UN agency has a wide enough range of experts to cover all the areas that need to be covered to tackle this problem," he said.
The WHO's General Assembly approved a resolution on 23 May urging its member states to strengthen their antimicrobial drug management systems, support research to prolong the lifespan of existing antibiotics and foster the development of new diagnostics and treatments for microbial infections.
Following the decision, the WHO said it will start working on a draft global action plan against antimicrobial resistance, to be voted on next year.
Sally Davies, chief medical advisor to the UK government, said that, because of the WHO global action plan, developing countries would have to adopt a number of measures against antibiotics resistance, since it is there where most of the bacteria that become pandemic usually develop their resistance to drugs.
"The role of the WHO will be supporting developing countries to develop their own national plans," she said, speaking at a two-day conference on antimicrobial resistance at the Royal Society (22-23 May). "We cannot look like the North doing it to the South, we have to take the developing world with us."
This global action would aim to tackle several practices driving resistance to antibiotics, such as their widespread use as growth promoters in livestock and their administration to entire flocks or herds when a single animal is diagnosed with an infection, Davies said.