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Uncontrolled drug-resistant infections could kill over 10m by 2050, study finds

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  Thursday 11th December 2014
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Thursday 11th December 2014
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Prime minister David Cameron has called for action to tackle the threat of resistance to antibiotics which, if left unchecked, could create a global crisis, following a report published today.

The rise of drug-resistant infections could have grave health and macroeconomic implications for the future.

For over 25 years no new types of antibiotics have come into common use, yet there are growing numbers of bacterial and viral infections which have become resistant to antimicrobial drugs, threatening a new Dark Age of medicine.

At least 700,000 people die each year from antibiotic resistant infections worldwide; 50,000 of these deaths occurring in the US and Europe. The review estimates that by 2050, this figure could rise to ten million people dying each year and having a global economic impact of almost $35 trillion.

In July 2014, Mr Cameron commissioned a wide reaching independent review, led by the internationally renowned economist Dr Jim O’Neill. Dr O’Neill worked in coordination with the world’s second largest medical research foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and sought to take evidence from a wide range of disciplines and expertise.

The report forecasts that there could be profound health and macroeconomic consequences for the world, especially in emerging economies, if antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is not tackled.

This emerging resistance to treatments of diseases, such as TB, malaria and HIV, have enormous impacts in lower-income settings. The review team found that many of the estimated 480,000 new cases of TB in 2013 were resistant to antibiotics. Studies show that there are now resistant strains of malaria and some strains of HIV are possibly becoming resistant to antiretroviral therapy.

The report’s findings suggest the rise of drug-resistant diseases will impact the survival rates of cancer treatment (which often surprises patients’ resilience to infections), childbirth and organ transplants.

Overuse and misuse of antimicrobials was seen to be enabled by their availability over the counter and without prescription and the large quantities of counterfeit and substandard drugs permeating the pharmaceutical markets only amplify the problems surrounding AMR.

The review identified the urgent need to enhance worldwide surveillance of infections to help monitor the rising tide of drug-resistant infections.

In light of this, the report strikes a more positive note in forecasting improvements in worldwide standards of sanitation, developments in computational analysis to tackle the spread of diseases and a new action plan introduced by the World Health Organisation which aims to tackle the spread of AMR in 194 countries.

Chris Gilroy