The fifth World Health Summit - taking stock | Tomorrow Today - The Science Magazine | DW | 14.10.2013
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Tomorrow Today

The fifth World Health Summit - taking stock

Our studio guest is Professor Detlef Ganten, president of the World Health Summit, who explains what the mega health event has achieved so far and what the most pressing problems and goals are when it comes to global health.

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DW: Dr. Ganten, we're still using antibiotics that were developed in the middle of the last century. No real significant antibiotics have really been developed for over two decades. Why isn't the pharma industry interested?

Detlev Ganten: So far, the antibiotics have been very effective. They've been widely used. And now we have more and more resistance to antibiotics, bacteria grow despite the treatment with antibiotics. So, we need new antibiotics to treat these specific resistant germs and bacteria. But that is very expensive. And the number of indications should be restricted to just those that are resistant. And that is a small market so far. So we need some models how this can be done so that pharmaceutical industries are interested in developing them and they earn back the money for the development. The European Union and other organizations are working on this model and we have a major symposium on it at the World Health Summit to discuss these issues which are very important.

What do you think of this idea to use toxins that have evolved in insects to develop antibiotics?

It is an excellent idea. There is no system more creative than nature. So you look at nature and what you can learn for treatment of other diseases. This has been done in the past and I think this is a wonderful idea to pursue. I am sure it will be successful.

Moving away from antibiotics - what other pressing healthcare issues are central at this World Health Summit?

At the World Health Summit, health is much more than medicine. We try to get together politicians, civil society, the health economy and also of course academia. Academia is organizing there the M8 alliance. So the World Health Summit is a forum to discuss topics like antibiotics, infrastructure, research infrastructure in other countries - what is going on in certain areas of the world, how can we have and how can we improve health in specific ways but also in more general terms in the long term.

The summit brings together people from research, politics, business and medicine. There are so many different agendas, how do you come to a consensus on what has to be done to address healthcare issues?

We won't agree on everything but we take out a few areas where we do have agreement and which are particularly urgent. So antibiotics, we will have a statement of the national academies which will then be given to national governments and to organizations like the European Union for example, interested in developing this topic. We give some advice there. We look at the regions like the Mediterranean area where as we all know there is a lot of turmoil and instability and people are suffering and medical care is not assured anymore. So, we do have recommendations on this topic. We make recommendations for research infrastructure in certain areas which is very important for the future.