Ethical investments could help in fight against superbugs says chief medical officer

Investors are being urged to put their money into companies that are developing new antibiotics and vaccines as a way of curbing the rise of superbugs.Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England and a key figure in the global fight against superbugs, told an Economist conference on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) that ethical investment was one way of tackling the problem.“Investors should not be investing in companies in the food chain that misuse antibiotics. They should be investing for corporate social responsibility in antibiotic-making companies and vaccine-making companies,” she said, adding that consumers and investors would be significant players in the fight against AMR.She said that she had met City investors to discuss the issue but it was going to take time for people to understand this as an area of ethical investment, in the same way as green investments.“We just need to get this rolling,” she said.Last year a study showed that an estimated 33,000 people died from infections that were resistant to antibiotics in 2015, out of a total of 670,000 cases in Europe.  Dame Sally told the conference that getting AMR onto the political agenda was also important.“AMR does need more political engagement – it’s not just about a discussion at the G20 or G7 [groups of the richest countries]. This needs to be translated into action,” she said. However, she highlighted the progress made in the UK  the NHS has reduced the amount of antibiotics prescribed by 7.3 per cent between 2014 and 2017. The Department of Health’s new AMR strategy requires the health service to bring this down a further 15 per cent by 2024.Protect yourself and your family by learning more about Global Health Security  She said she was worried about German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s imminent departure as she had played a significant role in promoting AMR. Dame Sally added that former UK prime minister David Cameron had been “strong” on the issue.Mr Cameron commissioned former Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill to investigate AMR and his report has been influential in persuading people of both the economic and human costs. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings. “Such a body would stimulate more research and make it available but also give us political momentum every two to three years,” she said.She said that people were overwhelmed by the issue “because they see it as so complex because of the food chain, different interests and the intersection between the public and private sector”. Earlier this year the Department of Health launched a new AMR strategy which aims to cut the number of drug-resistant infections in the UK by 10 per cent by 2025. At the launch of the strategy health secretary Matt Hancock said antibiotic resistance was “as big a danger to humanity as climate change or warfare”.Dame Sally said that antibiotic resistance was similar to climate change in its complexity and the fact it was a man-made disaster.“Climate change awareness started with a few activists who got it,” she said.She called for a global body co-ordinating research on AMR similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. read more