Longitude Prize

  • Daniel Berman

    Daniel Berman

    Director, Global Health

    View profile

18 Nov 2014

In order to tackle growing levels of antimicrobial resistance, the challenge set for the Longitude Prize is to invent an affordable, accurate, fast and easy-to-use test for bacterial infections that will allow health professionals worldwide to administer the right antibiotics at the right time.

On average antibiotics add 20 years to each person’s life. The development of antibiotics has been vital to our survival, yet the rise of antimicrobial resistance is threatening to make them ineffective in the future.

The World Health Organization estimates that antibiotics treatments add an average of 20 years to all of our lives. But in the 80 years since the discovery of penicillin, our overuse of antibiotics has put pressure on bacteria to evolve resistance, leading to the emergence of untreatable superbugs that threaten the basis of modern medicine.

Clinicians often prescribe broad spectrum antibiotics to sick patients because doctors have to act quickly on imperfect information. These methods put selective pressure on microbes to evolve resistance to antibiotics. Prescriptions from clinicians are just one way in which people access antibiotics, however. There are many routes to these drugs and they vary around the world.

While overconsumption of antibiotics is a serious problem that is rendering our drugs ineffective, lack of access to much needed antibiotics in the first place is still a major barrier to health for millions of people. For example, more than a million children with untreated pneumonia and sepsis die each year worldwide.

Radical change is needed to address the global problem of growing anti-microbial resistance, to ensure a healthcare system that can sustainably control and treat infections.

We cannot outpace microbial evolution. A new broad-spectrum antibiotic, if applied with current methods, would eventually meet new forms of resistance. The overall solution involves a long-term path towards a more intelligent use of antibiotics enabling a future of more effective prevention, targeted treatments and smart clinical decision support systems.

The challenge for Longitude Prize will be set to create a cheap, accurate, rapid and easy-to-use point of care test kit for bacterial infections.