Warning over superbugs impact


Published: Thursday 11th December 2014 by The News Editor

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Superbugs could cost the world 10 million more deaths a year and hundreds of trillions of dollars by 2050, a new report has warned.

Drug-resistant infections kill hundreds of thousands of people across the globe each year, but a review by economist Jim O’Neill claims the trend is set to get worse if urgent action is not taken.

Mr O’Neill heads the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, which was set up in July by Prime Minister David Cameron and publishes its first findings today.

The report cites as an example a type of E.coli that has now become resistant to the last-resort antibiotics carbapenems, and said there are no effective drugs currently available to treat patients with that strain of the disease.

Mr O’Neill said the review team, which based its analysis on work by researchers RAND and auditors KPMG, will search for “bold, clear and practical long term solutions” to tackle the problem.

Further papers will be published in the coming years looking at various ideas including the potential for the use of alternative therapies and boosting the development of new drugs, before a final report in 2016.

Mr O’Neill said: “Drug-resistant infections already kill hundreds of thousands a year globally, and by 2050 that figure could be more than 10 million. The economic cost will also be significant, with the world economy being hit by up to 100 trillion US dollars (£63.6 trillion) by 2050 if we do not take action.”

“We cannot allow these projections to materialise for any of us, especially our fellow citizens in the Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and Mint (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) world, and our ambition is such that we will search for bold, clear and practical long term solutions.”

Politicians and scientists have warned of the need to find a cure for infections that have become resistant, with Mr Cameron this year stating it was a “very real and worrying threat” that could send medicine “back into the dark ages”.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer for England, said the latest research is “compelling”.

She said: “We all know that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is important. This is a compelling piece of work, which takes us a step forward in understanding the true gravity of the threat.

“It demonstrates that the world simply cannot afford not to take action to tackle the alarming rise in resistance to antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs we are witnessing at the moment.

“I look forward to the ideas that Jim will recommend in due course for how we can begin to turn this tide globally.”

Nick Stern, president of the British Academy, IG Patel professor of economics and government at the London School of Economics and former chief economist of the World Bank, said the review is profoundly important in tackling a huge challenge for the future.

“Wise policy looks ahead and tries to manage risks, particularly the big ones,” he said. “There can be no doubt now that antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest that we, all of us, face.

“The work of the group led by Jim O’Neill is of profound importance and this paper shows very convincingly the great scale of the risks, in terms of human lives and the economy, that are posed by this deeply worrying phenomenon.”

Published: Thursday 11th December 2014 by The News Editor

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