Superbugs to 'kill millions' by 2050 unless countries act

AFP  File | The growth of drug-resistant infections is predicted to be between four and seven times faster by 2030 than currently

A new report from the OECD [Wednesday] estimates that antimicrobial resistant infection is on track to kill 30,000 Americans per year by 2050, nearly as many as die in motor vehicle accidents.

Infectious bugs becoming drug resistant has been a problem since the discovery of penicillin, the first antibiotic, but it has become worse in recent years as some bugs have become resistant to multiple drugs.

Drug-resistant bacteria killed more than 33,000 people in Europe in 2015, according to new research published separately this week. By 2050, it is estimated that antimicrobial resistance will kill about 1 million people in the United States.

In a report, the OECD said "a short-term investment to stem the superbug tide would save lives and money".

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"AMR costs more than the flu, more than HIV, more than tuberculosis". "The investment in a comprehensive public health program incorporating some of these measures could be amortized in only one year and would lead to a saving of $ 4.8 billion per year", says the OECD. "And it will cost even more if countries don't put into place actions to tackle this problem", he said. The problem of resistance is growing even more rapidly in low- and middle-income countries. As laid out in the report, the OECD recommends a five-pronged approach to AMR: Promotion of better hygiene, an end to over-prescription of antibiotics, rapid testing for patients to determine viral or bacterial infections, delays in prescribing antibiotics, and mass media campaigns.

Resistance to second and third-line antibiotics - which presents the most advanced and effective line of defence to prevent infections - is expected to be 70 percent higher in 2030, compared to AMR rates in 2005 for the same antibiotic-bacterium combinations, while resistance to third-line treatments will double in European Union countries.

"Drug-resistant superbugs are on the rise worldwide and represent a fundamental threat to global health and development". In Brazil, Indonesia and Russian Federation, for example, between 40% and 60% of infections are already drug resistant, compared to an OECD average of 17%.

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