LONDON & GENEVA—The 71st World Health Assembly, held recently in Switzerland, served as the venue for a side event at which an important announcement was made: the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that establishes a three-year project focusing on connecting vital data from patients’ diagnostic test results to national antimicrobial resistance (AMR) surveillance programs in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The goal: to help combat the growing threat of drug-resistant infections.
More specifically, it was the U.K. government’s Global Antimicrobial Resistance Innovation Fund (GAMRIF)—part of the Department of Health and Social Care—and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) that signed the MOU on connectivity for diagnostics that can combat AMR.
To improve worldwide surveillance of AMR, FIND and its partners will develop tools and solutions to connect vital information from AMR-related diagnostic testing of patients and ensure it reaches national surveillance programs in LMICs, extending their scope to include routine hospital and community data.
Some 700,000 global deaths each year are estimated to be caused by drug-resistant pathogens. If nothing is done to stem the tide of growing AMR, that number is expected to balloon to 10 million deaths per year by 2050, with the economic harm and human loss falling disproportionately on LMICs.
As FIND noted in announcing the MOU signing, Lord Jim O’Neill’s independent review on AMR in 2016 underlined the importance of a coordinated global effort to tackle the AMR threat, with the review describing it as “shocking” the way in which prescribing decisions today have not fundamentally changed since the 1950s—owing to a lack of suitable diagnostic tools and technologies.
Better diagnostics, of course, are a critical component of the effort to rein in drug-resistant bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi. As FIND notes, “Widespread, consistent use of diagnostic tests to identify disease-causing pathogens and determine the presence of drug resistance enables healthcare professionals to provide patients with the most appropriate treatment regimens. Data from connected diagnostics enable surveillance of drug resistance at national, regional and international levels and inform precision global health interventions.”
Teaming up the U.K. government and FIND will further GAMRIF’s goal of fostering innovations to tackle AMR for the benefit of people in LMICs. Three workstreams will be delivered: end-to-end data transfer and reporting from point-of-care testing for AMR surveillance; a mobile phone app to enable the transfer of a range of rapid diagnostic test results for surveillance; and clinical decision aids via mobile phones, also linked to AMR surveillance systems.
“Diagnostics are critical to tracking and monitoring diseases and the spread of drug resistance,” said Catharina Boehme, CEO of FIND. “Connecting diagnostics to surveillance systems at various levels from local to global will allow surveillance to be strengthened in LMICs, where the burden of infectious diseases is highest but data are currently limited.”
“This partnership with FIND is part of the U.K. government’s continued commitment to fight drug-resistant infections,” said Steve Brine, the United Kingdom’s health minister. “Supporting work on diagnostic technologies is an essential part of this, and will have a key role to play in mitigating the impact of superbugs on the health and economic prosperity of the world’s poorest. This partnership will contribute to saving lives in areas of the world that are disproportionally affected by this threat.”
Over the past decade, the U.K. government, through the Department for International Development, has been a major donor to FIND, supporting the initiation of the development of critical diagnostic assays for prioritized target product profiles using innovative technology platforms and business models. This recently signed MOU extends the ongoing relationship between FIND and the government, specifically to support diagnostic connectivity for AMR as part of the Global AMR Innovation Fund.
“Diagnostic technologies play a key role in tackling AMR,” said Prof. Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer. “I welcome the Global AMR Innovation Fund’s collaboration with FIND, which aims to connect diagnostics to national and global surveillance systems. Collecting this valuable information will improve surveillance, which is crucial to monitoring trends of infection, linking data on antibiotic use in different sectors and allowing assessment of interventions to reduce AMR.”