A new Oxford University collaboration will support understanding and action around one of the world’s biggest health threats, drug-resistant infections.

The Global Burden of Disease AMR (GBD AMR) project will gather and publish data on the impact of superbugs globally. Allowing scientists to, for the first time, map disease and death caused by drug-resistant infections, which will be critical in targeting global efforts.

The collaboration was announced today, at the Wellcome Trust’s international Call to Action conference in Berlin, which supports increased action on tackling drug-resistant infection.

Scientists from the Big Data Institute and the Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health both at the University of Oxford, and researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) University of Washington, will work together on the initiative, intended to increase global awareness and drive support for strategies that can reduce superbugs. Other key contributors include the Wellcome Trust, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In recent years, the UK has led a drive to raise global awareness of the threat posed to modern medicine by antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, has stated that if antibiotics lose their effectiveness it will spell “the end of modern medicine” and a "post-antibiotic apocalypse".

The increasing spread of superbugs, specifically those resistant to antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics, is one of the greatest threats to global health. These infections frequently result in longer hospital stays, higher medical costs, and increased mortality. Some estimates predict that 10 million people could die every year from superbugs by 2050 if we do not act now, with common medical procedures such as caesareans and chemotherapy becoming too dangerous to perform.

The message from both the ‘Call to Action’ Conference and the GBD AMR project is that commitment alone is not enough, it must be translated into tangible action sooner rather than later.

Over the next four years, the research will enable the collection and synthesis of one of the largest datasets published on the impact of superbugs worldwide. This data will be used to quantify the burden of AMR in the context of other diseases and causes of death. The research findings will support understanding of trends in AMR and be used to inform treatment guidelines, decision-making and research agendas.

UK Minister for Public Health and Primary Care, Steve Brine, said: ‘This ground-breaking collaboration will enable us to better understand the extent of death and disease that AMR is causing globally and will guide future efforts and allocation of resources around the world.’

Professor Gil McVean, Director of the Big Data Institute, University of Oxford, said: ‘Big Data approaches can play a key role in mapping and understanding the critical and growing problem of drug resistant infection at a global scale. We are excited to be able to bring our expertise in data engineering, analytical innovation and software development to help meet the challenge.’

The partnership between IHME and the University of Oxford, will be supported by a number of donors, including the Fleming Fund, a British government initiative created to improve and support research into drug-resistant infectious diseases through a ‘One Health’ approach.

Associate Professor Direk Limmathurotsakul, Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, Bangkok, Thailand and Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health, University of Oxford, UK, said: ‘AMR is a big and growing problem in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). Nonetheless, data is currently scarce. The Oxford Tropical Network has long established international research units in Thailand, Vietnam and Kenya and will be key partners in evaluating the impact of AMR on health in LMICs together with their local partners and policy makers.’