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  Table of Contents  
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 33  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 196-197

"Longitude prize:" Save the world and win 10 million sterling pounds!!

Advisory Board Member, Longitude Prize, Coordinator, Chennai Declaration, Consultant Infectious Diseases, Apollo Specialty Hospital, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Submission15-Dec-2014
Date of Acceptance15-Dec-2014
Date of Web Publication5-Jan-2015

Correspondence Address:
A Ghafur
Advisory Board Member, Longitude Prize, Coordinator, Chennai Declaration, Consultant Infectious Diseases, Apollo Specialty Hospital, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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How to cite this article:
Ghafur A. "Longitude prize:" Save the world and win 10 million sterling pounds!!. Indian J Med Microbiol 2015;33:196-7

How to cite this URL:
Ghafur A. "Longitude prize:" Save the world and win 10 million sterling pounds!!. Indian J Med Microbiol [serial online] 2015 [cited 2020 Oct 28];33:196-7. Available from:

Vastness of the blue and inquisitiveness to explore the unknown and unseen, inspired men to set sail the unchartered, dangerous and thrilling ocean; discovering new continent, people, plants, animals, gems, spices, and civilizations. Heavy wind and rain often transformed the blue beauty to honey traps, dragging ships to the depth of the mysterious waters. Men were lost at sea! Mother nature guided sailors providing North and south latitude through positions of the sun during day and stars ant night. Some of the great minds of the 17 th and 18 th century including Galileo, Isaac Newton, Captain Cook, and John Harrison worked to find ways of measuring the longitude; the east and west position at sea. John Harrison's revolutionary time clock solved the longitude challenge, instituted in 1714 to solve one of the greatest challenges of the time, determining longitude at sea. [1] Men could now conquer the ocean with greater confidence and ease.

In 21 st century, we are facing one of the biggest encounters humanity has ever witnessed. We are lost at the ocean of microbes, the most powerful army in the universe, in a number, strategy, and weaponry-an enemy, living within and around us. Scientists, policy makers and political leaders are perplexed with the magnitude of the problem, unable to find a solution to the looming catastrophe, powerful enough to cripple modern medicine, global economy, and civilization.

We need new weapons in the form of antibiotics and new radars to detect the enemy and identify its strength. Pharmaceutical industry, governments, and scientists have woken up from the hibernation, opening up their money bags and equipment in search of the magic bullets, powerful and novel enough to kill these superbugs and accelerating interim efforts to polish the outdated and underused weaponry of old antibiotics.

Three hundred years after the original longitude challenge, [2] greatest minds across the globe are now working towards the new contest - "Longitude prize 2014" -a 10 million sterling pound prize announced by British prime minister, to invent a rapid, accurate, affordable test that can be used to help end users choose the right antibiotic at the right time, ameliorating the dangerous scenario of overuse of antibiotics and the resultant increase in the antibiotic resistance, and at the same time avoiding underutilization of antibiotics and mortality of patients due to sepsis.

Can we, and if so who will invent this "fantasy equipment" with all the good qualities we dream have? Though the challenge of antimicrobial resistance is a global one, South Asia and Mediterranean countries have reported the highest rates of resistance to Gram-negative bacteria. South Asia is the major epicenter of Gram-negative drug resistance. Unregulated antibiotic usage created high resistance rate in the region. Sanitation issues in the community and inadequate infection control facilities in many hospitals helped dissemination of these bacteria. There are more bacteria in the human body than the number of human cells. With more than half of the world population is living in the region, and the resultant huge bacterial biomass of resistant bacteria makes South Asia, the major epicenter of Gram-negative superbugs. [3] Mediterranean countries with a similar high resistance rate but smaller population are the minor epicenter for the Gram-negative crisis. KPC type of carbapenem resistance in the Mediterranean countries has a potential solution in the coming years with many molecules in the pipeline active against these bugs. No such hope for the NDM variety seen in South Asian countries! Not even one molecule in phase 3 is active against NDM producers. Intensive care units, transplant facilities, and oncology units across the region have already started experiencing impact from the lack of effective antibiotics to treat infections by carbapenem resistant bacteria, resulting in high morbidity and mortality. The fear of resistant bacteria, though justifiable, has in turn triggered the initiation of third-line antibiotics right from the start, further triggering the vicious cycle of resistance. This is where Longitude Prize 2014 and the new invention find its role. If we can identify resistant bacteria from a drop of blood, urine or other body fluids, at the point of care in a very short time, let us say in half an hour and at a very low cost, such an invention can revolutionize antibiotic usage and create a significant impact on the spiraling resistance rate in the region and at a global level. Longitude Prize 2014 should serve as a wake-up call to the brilliant young brains in the region, providing a solution to the regional and global challenge of antimicrobial resistance. Scientists in the region should not hesitate to send their entries to Longitude Prize 2014. India could succeed in Mars mission, an accomplishment requiring coordination of best of the brains and the technical knowhow. Governments and research bodies of the countries in South Asia should support their shortlisted scientists by providing financial and technical assistance. Media should help disseminate the information on the prize to a wider audience.

Necessity is the mother of all inventions. Construction of the Noah's ark should begin in regions where the flood is at its highest.

 ~ Disclosure Top

Dr. Ghafur is an advisory board member of Longitude prize.

 ~ References Top

Available from: [Last accessed on 2014 Oct 26].  Back to cited text no. 1
Available from: [Last accessed on 2014 Oct 26].  Back to cited text no. 2
Ghafur A. Can India be the wing commander in the global fight against antimicrobial resistance? J Assoc Physicians India 2012;60:42-3.  Back to cited text no. 3


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