Monday, 13 January 2014

Insufficient investment to UK fungal research

Global prevalence of fungal infections is increasing, with serious infections now thought to affect around 1.7% of the Brazilian populations, 1.9% of the Irish and a huge number in China. Cryptococcal meningitis alone accounts for well over half a million deaths every year worldwide, with aspergillosis and candidiasis, amongst others, topping the total to around 1.35 million deaths globally each year. It is likely that this is a significant underestimate of fungal mortality, with many cases misdiagnosed or missed entirely in developing nations.

Michael Head, from University College London, and colleagues investigated the total research funding allocated in the UK to fungal disease research between 1997-2010. Whilst around £2.5 billion has been spent on infectious disease drug research as a whole, merely £48.4 million (or 1.9% of all funding) of that was allocated to fungal diseases.

The vast majority of this went to preclinical drug development studies, but barely any of the money resulted in progression to clinical trials. Of the £48.4 million spent, only £2 million was spend on clinical trials and half that on developing products after successful trials. Candida and Aspergillus made up the bulk of the funding awarded, with £21.5 million allocated to the former and £4 million awarded to preclinical studies for Aspergillus spp. 

The paper concludes that there are strengths to UK fungal drug research, but growth in the industry is stifled by a lack of investment. Cryptococcosis, despite being the leading fungal cause of death worldwide, is chronically underfunded compared to other diseases. All this is made worse by increasing resistance to fungal infections which is not being countered by an increase in drug development.

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