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Superbug vaccines “within 10 years”

A vaccine for C difficile is possible within three years, and a vaccine for MRSA within 10 years, according to Sir Liam Donaldson, Chief Medical Officer for England.

Sir Liam made the claim at the launch of his 2007 Annual Report, which is published today.
“Vaccination is arguably the most important public health development in the history of humankind,” he said. “Over the last 200 years it has saved hundreds of millions of lives worldwide.

“The continuing work to develop new vaccines and potentially save more lives in the future is a testament to the work of Edward Jenner two centuries ago. New vaccines could not just prevent infectious diseases, but could also prevent or treat some cancers and other chronic conditions.”

As well as vaccinations against hospital “superbugs”, Sir Liam highlighted the development of a wider spectrum influenza vaccine to combat the threat of an influenza pandemic. The report also describes potential vaccines for chronic diseases, including type 1 diabetes.

The main focus of the report was on the health of teenagers, with health service providers urged to involve teenagers in the design of services for them.

The report also draws attention to the rising levels of oesophageal cancer. Over the last 20 years, the rate of new cases in England has gone up by 86% for men and 40% for women, whereas the rate has sharply decreased in other European countries, such as France. The reasons for this are unknown.

Sir Liam also used the report to call for action on discrimination against health professionals from ethnic minorities, and to urge safer practice in surgery.

The report presents new data showing the National Patient Safety Agency received 129,416 reports of potential errors involving surgical procedures during 2007. Sir Liam highlighted 14 cases of burr holes being drilled on the wrong side of the head during brain surgery in the last three years, which he said should be “never events”.

Annual Report of the Chief Medical Officer 2007