Superbugs could kill millions by 2050 and cost $65 billion to the US health-care system unless countries act now

Antibiotics resistance among bacteria (superbugs) is a large and growing problem, with huge health and economic consequences in the US and around the world.  According to a new report issued by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development(OECD) millions of people worldwide will die from superbug infections unless countries prioritize fighting the growing threat posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Currently, around 29,500 people die annually in the USA due to infections to superbugs. According to new research, drug-resistant bacteria killed more than 33,000 people in Europe in 2015. In the report, the OECD said 2.4 million people could die from superbugs by 2050, about 1 million of them n the USA.

The economic toll from superbugs could be vast, reaching $65 billion by 2050, according to the report.  If the report’s projections are correct, resistance to backup antibiotics will be 70% higher in 2030 than it was in 2005 in OECD countries.

In September2018, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest public health challenges of our time, it alerted to the danger of antibiotic resistance, stating that each year in the U.S., at least 2 million people get an antibiotic-resistant infection, and at least 23,000 people die. In the USA antibiotic-resistant bacterium has increased from 20% in 2005 to 23% in 2015 and could hit 25% by 2030.

According to the OECD report estimates, the growth of infections due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria will be 7-10 times faster by 2030 than currently. The report predicts that resistance 2nd- and 3rd-line antibiotics will balloon by 70% by 2030.

Global crisis

The antibiotic resistance crisis is predicted to grow faster in southern Europe, including Italy, Greece, and Portugal.

Low- and middle-income countries, such as Brazil, Indonesia, and Russia, will also be hit hard, according to OECD projections. The average resistance in Turkey, Korea, and Greece is ~ 35%. This is 7 times higher than in Iceland, the Netherlands, and Norway.

In Brazil, Indonesia and Russia, between 40% and 60% of infections are already antibiotic-resistant, compared to an average of 17% in OECD countries. In these countries, the growth of antimicrobial resistance rates is forecast to be 4 to 7 times higher than in OECD countries between now and 2050.

Suggested Approaches to attack the problem

The OECD report suggests that ¾ of the death could be prevented by emphasizing the followings:

  1. Better hand washing and better hygiene among health-care workers.
  2. Another key element of prevention is a more prudent prescription of antibiotics and ending over-prescription of antibiotics.
  3. Test patients more quickly to determine if patients have viral or bacterial infections.
  4. Delaying antibiotic prescriptions by three days, so that viral infection can take its course is also an option.
  5. Finally, creating more public awareness campaigns.

Michele Cecchini, senior health economist, and policy analyst at the OECD’S health division said that “A more prudent prescription of antibiotics is needed. A package combining stewardship programs enhanced environmental hygiene, mass media campaigns, and rapid diagnostic testing would cost to the U.S. a total of $4.93 per capita per year. This package would avert 20,000 deaths and save $2.8 billion per year in the U.S.”

Taking these measures “Would decrease the burden of antimicrobial resistance in these countries by 75%,” said Cecchini. “It would pay for itself in a few months and would produce substantial savings.”

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