Drug-resistant HIV pandemic is a 'real possibility', expert claims

 

Health Reporter

A new HIV pandemic is “a real possibility”, one of the world’s leading authorities on infectious disease has said, warning that a rise of drug resistant strains of the virus could “reverse progress made since the 1980s” in combating the disease.

Professor Jeremy Farrar said that “the spectre of drug-resistant HIV” threatened to have “a huge impact” in the next 20 years, if drugs which have made vast improvements to the life expectancy of patients since 1990s become less effective.

His warning came as a coalition of scientists said that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – the process by which bacteria and other microbes, including viruses, evolve to be immune to the drugs we use to combat them – should rank alongside climate change as one of the greatest threats facing humanity.

Professor Farrar, director of the leading research foundation the Wellcome Trust, said that it was “inevitable” that resistance to HIV would increase because it was a virus which could easily mutate.

Antiretroviral drugs currently used to treat HIV have been so successful that people living with the virus can expect to live healthy, active lives if they have access to the drugs and adhere to their regime.

While hailing the “incredible” progress made since the 1980s in treating HIV, Professor Farrar said that resistance to first resort drugs, and also some second and third resort, drugs had already occurred and that drug options for the virus were not “limitless”.

“It is not unreasonable that a HIV pandemic could return.” he said. “The possibility of a resistantly-driven HIV pandemic is quite real.”

He said it would be essential to use existing treatments “efficiently and effectively” to avoid further resistance developing.

“We [also] need to ensure we continue to develop new compounds rather than become complacent about the existing drugs we have,” he added. “A vaccine is also crucial to ensure we do not have to rely on our current prevention and treatment options.  But an HIV vaccine will be incredibly difficult.”

In an article for the journal Nature published today, Professor Farrar and another leading figure, Professor Mark Woolhouse, have called for the establishment of a “powerful global organisation” similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to coordinate the worldwide response to the threat of anti-microbial resistance.

Scientists have warned for years that the rise of AMR risks undoing a century of medical progress with routine operations and cancer treatments becoming deadly because of the risk of infection.

Resistant strains of tuberculosis, malaria, MRSA and HIV have already spread around the world, they write. The focus of concerns has been antibiotic resistance, which relates to bacterial infections, but viral infections such as HIV and malaria are now also showing signs of resistance.

In Europe, there are estimated to be 25,000 deaths every year from drug-resistant infections – roughly the same as those killed in road accidents.

Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, who has spearheaded an international effort to act against AMR, said she now had “cross-governmental support right up to the Prime Minister” and wanted to see an international treaty within two years, setting out each country’s commitments to combat drug-resistance.

“In 2016, we are going to need a day at the UN about anti-microbial resistance,” she said. “I believe we will need some form of treaty and it will need to be science-based. Whether an IPCC mechanism is absolutely the right mechanism at the moment to me doesn’t matter. What we need to do is galvanise support across the board.”

Professor Woolhouse, of Edinburgh University said that, in terms of the threats posed to human health by both AMR and climate change, he was “much more concerned about antimicrobial resistance”.

Dame Sally added: “I tell the politicians: I don’t want to see my children, their children or even myself in hospital with an untreatable infection. Would they want to be the government on watch when the health service falls over because they didn’t take action early enough to make sure we had new antibiotics and conserved the ones we already had?”

Strategies to combat AMR will likely fall into two categories: cutting back excessive use, and developing new drugs and alternative treatments.  

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Life and Style
Gap announced its same-store sales were down 6 per cent in August, and 3 per cent in September
fashionAlexander Fury explains where Gap is going wrong
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
News
Rainbow List
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
Cronenberg: 'Ageing is part of life. There is a beauty to it; you just have to find a way to grasp that beauty'
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Commercial Litigation NQ+

    Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE NQ to MID LEVEL - An e...

    Commercial Property Solicitor - Legal 500 Firm

    £30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solic...

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

    Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?