Yesterday two reports were published each one warning of the growing threat of antibiotic resistant bacteria which experts say can kill 10 million people a year by 2015.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published a long report identifying the threats it has found in the United States for 2013. It presents a very clear picture of how the over use of antibiotics has resulted in a variety of antibiotic resistant “superbugs” which are not killed by the antibiotics currently available to doctors.
The CDC report estimated that in the United States at least 23,000 people die every year after contracting one of the many possible superbugs.
Britain focus on the economic impact
Earlier this summer, Prime Minster David Cameron of the U.K. requested that economist Jim O’Neill head up a group to study the financial impact of antibiotic resistant superbugs. Yesterday Mr. O’Neill told the BBC that the current death toll around the world has reached over 700,000 and would likely rise to 10 million people a year by 2050. Cancer kills about 8.5 million people a year.
As to the economic impact, Mr. O’Neill estimated that unless something is done, the world economy would be reduced by 2-4%.
Lack of effective antibiotics will make many medical procedures more dangerous or even impossible
Currently the most drug resistant bacteria include e-coli, malaria and tuberculosis. But without new antibiotics many procedures which are now considered almost routine would become dangerous or even impossible. Just of few would include C-sections, joint replacements, transplants, chemotherapies and other complex surgeries. All these procedures require the use of antibiotics to prevent infections during and after these procedures. With no effective antibiotics, many of these procedures would become too dangerous to perform.
In the U.S. many of the infections which are transmitted during hospital stays are also showing increased resistance to antibiotic therapy. The CDC report especially noted that Candida, a fungus which is becoming more prevalent among hospital patients, is becoming harder to treat and is notably more drug resistant ever the last year.
The CDC report outlines a recommended course of action to combat this growing threat. It recommends four basic steps:
- Prevention of infections and containing the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria from spreading,
- Better tracking of these resistant bacteria,
- Educating and improving the use of current antibiotics to maintain their effectiveness when really necessary, and
- Promoting the encouraging the research and development of new antibiotics.
The British report proposes similar strategies
The O’Neill report identifies three factors it considers important in controlling the crisis of the superbugs. Like the CDC, they suggest
- Studying how antibiotics are used today to reduce the growth of resistance,
- Developing and encouraging development of new drugs, and
- Creating an international action plan which sets forth a coherent protocol for the use of current drugs in both humans and animals.
The U.S. and the U.K are consistent in their warnings. If something is not done to combat this threat, a great many people will die and both the population reduction and economic impact will be devastating.