That’s one person every three seconds and superbugs could be killing more people than cancer.
A new report into tackling our resistance to drugs has been released after a two-year investigation by former Goldman Sachs economist Jim O’Neill and it claims superbugs are fast becoming one of the biggest health threats to mankind.
The report said superbugs would be felt throughout the world, but developing countries and large emerging nations would cop the brunt of the problem.
Superbugs are strong strands of bacteria that often cause common gut, urinary and blood infections, but become dangerous because they’re immune to the antibiotics we currently take.
Some infections will become incurable unless new antibiotics are created.
“Routine surgeries and minor infections will become life-threatening once again and the hard won victories against infectious diseases of the last 50 years will be jeopardised,” the report said.
The superbugs could also cost governments up to $138 trillion a year.
“Hospital stays and expenses, for both public health care providers and for out-of-pocket payers will increase significantly,” the report said. Out of all the continents, Asia and Africa are most at risk.
By 2050, more than 4.7 million will die from superbugs each year in Asia, 4.1 million in Africa, 392,000 in South America, 390,000 in Europe, 317,000 in North America and 22,000 in Oceania, according to the report.
UK chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davies said the world had reached a critical point and needed to act now.
It’s a problem that shouldn’t be ignored in Australia and Fairfax Media reports an 81-year-old woman in Melbourne has a superbug, Carbapenem Resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), after having surgery six months ago.
It started to spread through hospitals in the past couple of years, with 60 Victorians affected in 2015.
Since 2012, 18 people have been killed by superbugs in Victoria.
WHAT IS CAUSING IT?
A widespread use of antibiotics has contributed to the growth of superbugs.
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said simply using antibiotics created a resistance to them.
It said about 50 per cent of the time, antibiotics were not prescribed properly and sometimes consumed when our bodies didn’t even need them.
Antibiotics kill bacteria that makes us sick but it also kills good bacteria that protects us. Now the bacteria that is drug resistant is growing and starting to take over, creating superbugs.
It starts to spread and strengthen other bacteria that ordinarily would have been killed by antibiotics.
The superbugs can also be easily spread from person to person.
The amount of time we spend taking a course of antibiotics also strengthens drug resistant bacteria.
The World Health Organisation said superbugs could affect anybody of any age or nationality.
WHAT DO WE DO?
If we could avoid infections that would be an easy solution.
But humans are obviously not invincible and infections are inevitable, hence why superbugs are going to kill so many people.
The report released about the superbugs has made suggestions on ways to combat this growing illness. Today there are 700,000 deaths every year.
The report into superbugs suggests we need to improve hygiene and prevent the spread of infection.
“Improving hygiene and sanitation was essential in the 19th century to counter infectious diseases,” the report said.
“Two centuries later, this is still true and is also crucial to reducing the rise in drug resistance — the less people get infected, the less they need to use medicines such as antibiotics, and the less drug resistance arises.
“All countries need to act.”
The report says developing countries need to focus on the basics and improve access to clean water.
For other countries, the focus will be on the health care systems and limiting the spread of superbugs in hospitals. Proper handwashing is key, while it sounds simple, it could be a huge step forward in combating this deadly bug.
The report says being more careful with the antibiotics we pump into our food will also significantly help.
“There are circumstances where antibiotics are required in agriculture and aquaculture — to maintain animal welfare and food security,” it said.
“However, much of their global use is not for treating sick animals, but rather to prevent infections or simply to promote growth.”
In the US alone more than 70 per cent of antibiotics that are important for humans, are sold for use in animals.
The report suggests countries should restrict the types of antibiotics that could be feeding the superbugs.
Countries should also look at promoting the development and use of alternatives to antibiotics, like vaccines.
“Vaccines can prevent infections and therefore lower the demand for therapeutic treatments, reducing use of antimicrobials and so slowing the rise of drug resistance,” the report said.
HOW CAN WE EVEN AFFORD THIS?
The report predicts tackling superbugs would cost up to $55 billion over 10 years.
The cost would come from creating new drugs that superbugs aren’t resistant to.
There’s an idea for countries to band together and create an Antimicrobial Resistance Global Innovation Fund that will have almost $3 billion donated to it in just five years.
“Governments can afford to cover the cost of addressing antimicrobial resistance by allocating resources from existing health and economic development budgets,” the report said.
“Committing funds to antimicrobial resistance now will reduce the amount it costs later when it develops into an even bigger crisis, which will inevitably fall to governments.”
The report suggests countries should invest about $5 billion a year to go directly towards beating superbugs.
“There is no excuse for inaction given what we know about the impact of rising drug resistance,” the report said.
“The reality is that governments will sooner or later bear the cost of antimicrobial resistance.
“They can either do so proactively by taking action now and pay less for better outcomes, or remain unprepared and end up spending much more taxpayer money on far worse outcomes further down the line.
“Governments always have to make very difficult financial allocation choices. Understandably, they often find it easier to react to visible and immediate threats rather than longer term and less visible problems even if the latter are very large, such as antimicrobial resistance.”