The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development predicts viral spread
Experts have warned that millions of people Europe, North America, and Australia will die from superbug infections unless governments move to prioritize tackling bacteria immune to most known big pharma drugs.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicted of “disastrous consequences” for the healthcare system and spending if antibiotic uses are slashed and hospital hygiene is increased.
What is more worrying is that Drug-resistant bacteria claimed 33,000 lives in Europe in 2015, according to new research published separately this week.
According to StraitsTimes: In a landmark report, the OECD said 2.4 million people could die from superbugs by 2050 and announced the cost of treating such infections would expand to an average of US$3.5 billion a year in each country included in its analysis.
Michele Cecchini, lead on public health at the OECD, told AFP that countries were already spending an average of 10 percent of their healthcare budgets on treating antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) bugs.
“AMR costs more than the flu, more than HIV, more than tuberculosis. And it will cost even more if countries don’t put into place actions to tackle this problem,” he said.
‘Colossal Death Toll’
As humans consume more antibiotics ever – either through prescriptions or agriculture and livestock products are given medicines to stave off infection – strains of bacteria are growing that resist the effects of drugs designed to kill them.
In low and middle-income countries, resistance is already high: In Indonesia, Brazil, and Russia, up to 60 percent of bacterial infections are already immune to at least one antibiotic.
And the growth of AMR infections is predicted to be within four and seven times faster by 2030 than currently.
“Such high resistance rates in health care systems, which are already decreased by constrained budgets, will produce the conditions for an enormous death toll that will be mainly borne by newborns, very young children and the elderly,” the report said.
An analysis by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control found the impact of drug-resistant infections had increased since 2007.
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“Even small cuts in the kitchen, minor surgery or diseases like pneumonia could become life-threatening.”
Perhaps more worrying is the forecast made by the OECD that resistance to so-called 2nd- and 3rd-line antibiotics – break-glass-in-case-of-emergency infection treatments – will balloon by 70 percent by 2030.
“These are antibiotics that as far as possible, we don’t want to use because we want these as a backup,” Cecchini said.
“Essentially, we are using more when we should use less, and we are running out of our best options in case of emergency.”
HOW TO AVOID DISASTER
The group, which advises the World Health Organisation on public health initiatives, said the only way to prevent catastrophe was to execute immediate, sector-wide changes in behavior.
The report called on healthcare professionals to ensure greater universal hygiene standards in hospitals and clinics by insisting all staff wash their hands and conform to stricter safety regimes.
It also suggested resistance could be fought with better and quicker testing to determine if an infection is viral – meaning antibiotics are useless – or bacterial.
New swab tests can give a result in a matter of minutes, and Cecchini also put forward the idea of “delayed prescriptions” to dent antibiotic overuse by getting patients to wait three days before picking up their antibiotics – approximately the time it takes for a viral infection to run its course.
In trials of the technique, two-thirds of patients given delayed prescriptions for antibiotics never collected their medicine.
The OECD announced such changes would cost as little as US$2 per person per year and would save millions of lives and billions of dollars by mid-century.
“They would reduce the burden of AMR in these countries by 75 percent,” said Cecchini.
“It would pay for itself in a few months and would produce substantial savings.”