Su­per­bugs to ‘kill mil­lions’ by 2050 un­less coun­tries act

Times of Oman - - WORLD -

PARIS: Mil­lions of peo­ple in Europe, North Amer­ica and Aus­tralia will die from su­per­bug in­fec­tions un­less coun­tries pri­ori­tise fight­ing the grow­ing threat posed by bac­te­ria im­mune to most known drugs, ex­perts pre­dicted Wed­nes­day.

The Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment (OECD) warned of “dis­as­trous con­se­quences” for pub­lic health­care and spend­ing un­less ba­sic hospi­tal hy­giene is boosted and un­nec­es­sary an­tibi­otic use slashed.

Drug-re­sis­tant bac­te­ria killed more than 33,000 peo­ple in Europe in 2015, ac­cord­ing to new re­search pub­lished sep­a­rately this week. In a landmark re­port, the OECD said 2.4 mil­lion peo­ple could die from su­per­bugs by 2050 and said the cost of treat­ing such in­fec­tions would bal­loon to an av­er­age of $3.5 bil­lion (three bil­lion eu­ros) 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. As hu­mans con­sume ever more an­tibi­otics — ei­ther through pre­scrip­tions or agri­cul­ture and live­stock prod­ucts given medicines to stave off in­fec­tion -- strains of bac­te­ria are de­vel­op­ing 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 per cent of bac­te­rial in­fec­tions are al­ready re­sis­tant to at least one an­tibi­otic. And the growth of AMR in­fec­tions is pre­dicted to be be­tween four and seven times faster by 2030 than cur­rently. “Such high re­sis­tance rates in health care sys­tems, which are al­ready weak­ened by con­strained bud­gets, will cre­ate the con­di­tions for an enor­mous death toll that will be mainly borne by new-borns, very young chil­dren and the el­derly,” the re­port said.

“Even small cuts in the kitchen, mi­nor surgery or dis­eases like pneu­mo­nia could be­come lifethreat­en­ing.”

Per­haps more wor­ry­ing is the pre­dic­tion made by the OECD that re­sis­tance to so-called 2nd- and 3rd-line an­tibi­otics -- break-glassin-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 back up,” 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.”

The group, which ad­vises the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion on pub­lic health ini­tia­tives, said the only way to avert dis­as­ter was to im­ple­ment im­me­di­ate, sec­tor­wide changes in be­hav­iour.

The re­port called on health­care pro­fes­sion­als to en­sure bet­ter uni­ver­sal hy­giene stan­dards in hos­pi­tals and clin­ics by in­sist­ing all staff 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 mak­ing pa­tients wait three days be­fore pick­ing up their an­tibi­otics -- roughly the time it takes for a vi­ral in­fec­tion to run its course.

Drug-re­sis­tant bac­te­ria killed more than 33,000 peo­ple in Europe in 2015, ac­cord­ing to new re­search pub­lished sep­a­rately this week

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