Science says we’re heading back to a world where simple infections will kill

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Australian researchers have launched a global search to discover antibiotics capable of combating superbug bacteria.

The Community for Open Antimicrobial Drug Discovery (CO-ADD) is a not-for-profit initiative funded by $3.1 million from the Wellcome Trust and led by researchers at University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience.

The initiative will invite chemists from around the world to submit their compounds for free screening for antimicrobial activity.

Antibiotic resistant superbugs will cause at least 10 million more deaths and cost the global economy up to $100 trillion by 2050, according to UK estimates.

“We are heading towards a return to the pre-antibiotic era, when even simple infections caused death,” says Professor Matthew Cooper, the director of the Australian initiative. “Now it is time to act.”

The Australian scientists hope to screen more than 50,000 chemical compounds in the next 18 months.

“Each year chemists around the world make millions of compounds, most of these are not designed as antibiotic drugs and would not otherwise be screened for antimicrobial activity,” he says.

“The next antibiotic could be out there, sitting on someone’s shelf.”

The Australian team will establish the world’s first open access database of chemical compounds to help researchers understand how antibiotics work and what type of compounds to look for.