Superbugs to 'kill millions' by 2050 unless countries act

Strains of bacteria that resist the effects of drugs designed to kill them are developing as humans consume ever more antibiotics

A new report from the OECD [Wednesday] estimates that antimicrobial resistant infection is on track to kill 30,000 Americans per year by 2050, nearly as many as die in motor vehicle accidents.

This includes about 1.3 million deaths in Europe and 90,000 in Britain.

The spread of deadly superbug infections that kill millions of people around the world could be halted at a cost of just $2 (€1.75) per person per year.

However, it could be the fight with "simple measures" at moderate cost, according to the OECD: "encouraging better hygiene" (for instance by encouraging them to wash their hands), "put an end to the over-prescribing of antibiotics", or even to generalize the rapid diagnostic tests to determine if an infection is viral (in which case antibiotics are useless) or bacterial.

The report warns that southern Europe risks being particularly affected, with Italy, Greece and Portugal forecast to top the list of OECD countries with the highest mortality rates from antimicrobial resistance.

Resistance to second and third-line antibiotics - which presents the most advanced and effective line of defence to prevent infections - is expected to be 70 percent higher in 2030, compared to AMR rates in 2005 for the same antibiotic-bacterium combinations, while resistance to third-line treatments will double in European Union countries. It has been decades since a new class of antibiotics was brought on to the market, and... On average, about 29,500 persons die each year in the United States from infections related to eight resistant bacteria.

It found some reasons for cautious optimism, with the average growth of drug resistance slowing down across the OECD, but added there were "serious causes for concern".

The report comes after health officials in England launched a campaign to try to prevent people from asking for the drugs when they do not need them.

The health body's latest campaign reminds people that if they are feeling unwell "antibiotics aren't always needed".

To avoid these predicted outcomes, the OECD has specified that short-term investment could save lives and also money. "This report provides yet further evidence that investing to tackle the problem now will save lives and deliver big payoffs in the future".

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