DAVOS, Switzerland—Drugmakers from across the world called Thursday for governments and industry to join forces to battle the fast-rising threat of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

In a declaration signed by 83 companies and eight industry associations from 16 countries, they urged governments around the world to support investment in the development of antibiotics, diagnostics, vaccines, and other products to prevent and treat drug-resistant infections.

The appeal, released during an elite annual gathering of billionaires and political leaders in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, addresses deepening concern over the rise of superbugs.

Scientists warned on November 19 of a gene--found in southern China--called MCR-1 that makes bacteria resistant to a class of antibiotics, known as polymyxins, used to fight superbugs.

The gene has since emerged in Denmark, too.

The declaration, which was signed by heavyweights including Swiss groups Novartis and Roche and the US pharmaceutical manufacturers Pfizer and  Merck & Co., also called for governments to ensure the pricing of antibiotics, where appropriate, "more adequately reflects the benefits they bring".

The companies committed to do more to encourage appropriate use of antibiotics to reduce the risk of bugs developing drug resistance. 

"This declaration from industry is a major step forward in establishing a properly global response to the challenges of drug resistance," said Jim O'Neill, chairman of a British review of the threat, commissioned by Prime Minister David Cameron, and author of a report on superbugs that was discussed in Davos.

"The pharmaceutical industry, as well as society at large, cannot afford to ignore the threat of antibiotic resistance," he said.