World health experts have wanted that superbugs are as big a threat as terrorism and by 2050 will kill someone every three seconds unless millions of dollars of investment become available to prevent the world from sliding into a “post-antibiotic era.”
In a hugely influential report, experts state that more and more infections are becoming resistant to antibiotics.
The consensus is that, to prevent medicine “being cast back into the dark ages,” there must be a huge increase in public awareness and a revolution in terms of antibiotic use.
The global review explains we are wasting the antibiotics we currently possess and not developing enough new ones to combat the growing number of superbug infections, which since 2014 have killed one million people.
The BBC reports that, in 2014, when doctors carried out a review on antimicrobial resistance, they discovered bacteria immune even to the strongest antibiotic and the drug of last resort — colistin.
Fearing that the world is on the brink of a “post-antibiotic era,” the review reports that, by 2050, 10 million people will die every year from resistant infections unless clear and concise action is taken.
The global review’s chief economist, Lord Jim O’Neill explained that we should “stop treating our antibiotics like sweets.”
“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.”
Recommendations by the review include establishing a $2 billion Global Innovation Fund for early stage research, improved access to clean water, sanitation, and cleaner hospitals to prevent infections spreading, reducing unnecessarily vast antibiotic use in agriculture including a ban on those “highly critical” to human health, promoting the use of vaccines and alternatives to drugs, and paying companies $1 billion for every new antibiotic discovered
Health experts have long feared what has been termed an “antibiotic apocalypse.”
In a future where antibiotics are impotent, a simple cut on the finger, routine operations, and even childbirth could be a game of Russian Roulette in terms of whether one lives or dies.
Common infections will once again be deadly killers as “nightmare bacteria” becomes much more tenacious and resistant to the best weapons science has to offer.
Antibiotics may kill bacteria, but bacteria has a nasty habit of quickly becoming wise to the available antibiotics and developing an immunity, which is fine as long as new antibiotics are continually manufactured. The only trouble is that no new antibiotics have been discovered since the 1980s.
And unless the antibiotic apocalypse is to become a reality, we need to change the way we use these valuable drugs, as Prof Neil Woodford, from the Health Protection Agency’s antimicrobial resistance unit, points out.
“My lab is seeing an increasing number of resistant strains year on year. You could be gardening and prick your finger on a rose bush, get a bacterial infection and go into hospital and doctors can’t do anything to save your life. You live or die based on chance.”
Prof Richard James from the University of Nottingham agrees that a future where antibiotics have lost their punch would be a pretty apocalyptic place to live.
“It’s a pretty grim future, I think a lot of major surgery would be seriously threatened.
“I used to show students pictures of people being treated for tuberculosis in London – it was just a row of beds outside a hospital, you lived or you died – the only treatment was fresh air.”
[Photo Courtesay Manfred Rohde, Helmholtz-Zentrum fuer Infektionsforschung (HZI)/Getty Images]