Superbugs Could Kill Ten Million Each Year by 2050


When antibiotics first came onto the scene in the last century, they were hailed as nothing less than a medical miracle, helping people survive infections and illnesses that once took many lives. Ironically, however, it is the overuse antibiotics that have led to the rise of superbugs, drug-resistant bacteria that are incredibly difficult to treat with current medications. And the problem is likely to only get worse.

Warnings Abound

Medical professionals and others interested in public health have been warning for years now that the rise of these superbugs that cannot be treated with even the strongest medicines now available pose a huge threat to public health. The numbers themselves are shocking: if a solution is not found to this problem and it grows worse, the victims of these superbugs could total around ten million annually by 2050. And the cost of treating these infections could total a whopping $100 trillion dollars.

Although many people are aware vaguely that the rise of superbugs is a problem, most do not realize what an immediate threat this can pose – both to human health and to the economy.

Cameron Commissions an Economic/Public Health Impact Study

That is why U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron commissioned a study to a scientific company to model the future impact of these drug-resistant bacteria, especially on the economy. The company, after extensive research, came up with estimates of how the rise of these superbugs could affect the workforce (through both illness and death) and how this would, in turn, affect the global economy.

It was this impact study which came up with the numbers discussed earlier in this article. If nothing is found to intervene with this problem, then a combination of drug resistant bacteria will be responsible for around ten million deaths annually with the shock cost of $100 trillion. This would lead to a dramatic reduction in the overall world population and no current economy would go unaffected by this. Some in the company said that this might even be a conservative estimate. Of the drug-resistance bacteria being investigated, the three predicted to have the greatest impact on public health were strain of E. coli, tuberculosis and malaria.

What to Do

In the wake of these disturbing number, the commission is being extended to study what can be done to prevent this catastrophe from happening. Possible avenues of research to be examined include changing current drug use to prevent or slow the development of drug resistance.

At any rate, everyone involved agrees that working to solve this problem ahead of time is going to be far cheaper and more sparing of human life than letting the current situation run its course, with potentially disastrous consequences.

[Sources – Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, BBC News and The Telegraph]

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Meghan Telpner
Meghan has written many articles about health subjects as a journalist and as a freelance writer. As a reporter, she often covered hospital and clinic events/news and wrote news and features about health topics relevant to people in the community.