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Europe kickstarts R&D fightback against superbugs

Europe set out plans to boost research into the neglected area of antibiotics on Thursday by promising to accelerate approval of new drugs, while ensuring adequate prices for their makers and promoting industry-wide R&D.

Multi-drug resistant bacteria, or so-called superbugs, are a growing threat across Europe, with rates of drug resistance in one type of bacteria reaching 50 percent in the worst-hit countries, according to health officials.

But the medicine chest for new antibiotics is practically empty, following a decision by many large drugmakers to exit what has become an unprofitable area of research.

"We need to take swift and determined action if we do not want to lose antimicrobial medicines as essential treatment against bacterial infections in both humans and animals," EU health commissioner John Dalli said, outlining the new strategy at a briefing in Brussels.

A key element of the plan rests on using the existing Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) -- a public-private scheme jointly funded by industry and the Commission -- to speed the discovery and development of novel antibiotics.

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