Drug Companies Unite In Battle Against Bugs
Britain's two biggest drug companies have set aside their normally fierce rivalry to speed up the hunt for more powerful antibiotics.
GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and AstraZeneca are to share information in an unprecedented alliance.
Rather than duplicating each other's efforts in secret, they hope to learn swiftly what works against the bugs - and what doesn't.
Patrick Vallance, head of GSK's research and development, told Sky News: "Because of the nature of antibiotic research and the difficulties in doing this, we want to share.
"We want to get the information out so we all benefit from it."
The two companies will collaborate with three other pharmaceutical companies, as well as scientists in the public sector.
The European Commission is expected to announce £180m in funding to kick-start the work.
All but a handful of pharmaceutical companies have abandoned antibiotic research because it has proved hard to find the Achilles' heel of bugs such as MRSA.
Profits are also low because new antibiotics are rationed to reduce the risk of bacteria becoming resistant.
"Bugs are good at getting round things thrown at them," said Mr Vallance.
At least 14 different species of bacteria are now showing resistance to antibiotics.
Across Europe, superbugs kill 25,000 people each year and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned of "a doomsday scenario of a world without antibiotics".
Donald Owen died from MRSA after a routine knee operation. Even removing his joint and giving him high-strength antibiotics failed to slow the bug's spread.
His son Steve said: "There was nothing that could touch the infection. Then there were other complications and he died of multi-organ failure.
"Bugs have developed and got smarter. We need new antibiotics."