Superbugs 'will kill one person every three seconds by 2050'
Call for research into antibiotic resistance
Published 20/05/2016 | 02:30
Superbugs will kill someone every three seconds by 2050 unless the world acts now, a hugely influential report says.
The global review sets out a plan for preventing medicine "being cast back into the dark ages" that requires billions of dollars of investment.
It also calls for a revolution in the way antibiotics are used and a massive campaign to educate people.
According to the BBC, the report has received a mixed response, with some concerned that it does not go far enough.
The battle against infections that are resistant to drugs is one the world is losing rapidly and has been described as being "as big a risk as terrorism".
The problem is that we are simply not developing enough new antibiotics and we are wasting the ones we have.
Since the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance started in mid-2014, more than one million people have died from such infections.
And in that time doctors also discovered bacteria that can shrug off the drug of last resort - colistin - leading to warnings that the world was teetering on the cusp of a "post-antibiotic era".
The review says the situation will only get worse, with 10 million people predicted to die every year from resistant infections by 2050.
The analysis was based on scenarios modelled by researchers Rand Europe and auditors KPMG. They found that drug-resistant E. coli, malaria and tuberculosis (TB) would have the biggest impact.
And the financial cost to economies of drug resistance is expected to add up to $100 trillion by the mid-point of the century.
The review recommends:
An urgent and massive global awareness campaign, as most people are ignorant of the risks;
Establishing a $2bn Global Innovation Fund for early stage research;
Improved access to clean water, sanitation and cleaner hospitals to prevent infections spreading;
Reducing the unnecessary and vast use of antibiotics in agriculture, including a ban on those "highly critical" to human health;
Improved surveillance of the spread of drug resistance;
Paying companies $1bn for every new antibiotic discovered;
Financial incentives to develop new tests to prevent antibiotics being given when they will not work;
Promoting the use of vaccines and alternatives to drugs.
The review said the economic case for action "was clear", and it could be paid for using a small cut of countries' current health budgets or through extra taxes on pharmaceutical companies not investing in antibiotic research.
Jim O'Neill, the economist who led the global review, told the BBC: "We need to inform in different ways, all over the world, why it's crucial we stop treating our antibiotics like sweets.
"If we don't solve the problem we are heading to the dark ages, we will have a lot of people dying.
"We have made some pretty challenging recommendations which require everybody to get out of the comfort zone, because if we don't then we aren't going to be able to solve this problem."
O'Neill's review called for a group of countries such as the G20 to reward companies for finding and developing new antibiotics.
"These market entry rewards, of around $1 billion each, would be given to the developers of successful new drugs, subject to certain conditions that ensure they are not over-marketed but are available to patients who need them wherever they live," it said.