Superbug battle zone

November 8, 1996

Scientists are uniting in the war against drug-defying superbugs by setting up a multi-disciplinary centre dedicated to the fight.

Concern is mounting worldwide over the resurgence of diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis and malaria, which were thought to have been killed off by antibiotics but have developed resistant strains.

Leeds University has brought together 45 experts in microbiology, chemistry, molecular biology and computing in an Antimicrobial Research Centre.

The centre, headed by Ian Chopra, former head of microbial research at SmithKline Beecham, and with investment of more than Pounds 6 million over the next three years, will primarily research new antibacterial therapies. But it will also explore antifungal agents and hopes to add antiviral research soon.

Resources used by researchers will include combinatorial chemistry, gene and protein engineering and clinical trials. The aim is to develop strong links with industry while training young researchers in chemical and biomedical techniques.

Since the 1980s few new classes of anitbacterial drugs have been discovered, while resistance to existing classes has increased. Population growth and increased urbanisation are likely to exacerbate the problem. And it can take 15 years between the discovery of a drug and its clinical availability.

Professor Chopra said: "There are critical needs to discover and develop new antibiotics to counter this new threat."

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