Leading the resistance

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 01 September 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:472

The government has finally announced a new independent advisory committee to look into resistance to antibiotics. Geoff Watts talks to its chairman, Professor Richard Wise

In 1969 a working party chaired by Lord Swann examined the safe and effective use of antibiotics in animals and humans. It recommended that the government recruit an expert advisory group. In July this year, such a group had its first meeting.

A recent report from the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology—at whose commendably nagging insistence the new advisory group has finally been created—saluted its advent. The committee further declared itself “appalled that [it] has taken so long.” As if to emphasise the point, the report prints the comment in bold type.

“It's been 31 years,” says microbiologist Professor Richard Wise, the chairman of the new group. His unprompted use of the precise number bears witness to a weary familiarity with it. But why now? “It's a question of political agendas. The House of Lords set up their select committee at just the right time. People were starting to get more and more concerned about things like MRSA [methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus], for example.”

Wise trained in Manchester but has spent the past 25 years working in Birmingham, the last five years occupying a personal chair in clinical microbiology. As a …

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