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Without Action, Drug-Resistant “Superbugs” Will Kill Millions in Europe

A report also concludes that an investment of $2 per person per year could forestall that fate.

Nov 8, 2018
Ashley P. Taylor

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Antibiotic-resistant infections could kill 2.4 million people in Europe, North America, and Australia by 2050 without further action to combat the infections, according to a report released yesterday (November 7) by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But the report also says that short-term investments by governments could push back against diseases and save money in the long run.

“Drug-resistant superbugs are on the rise worldwide and represent a fundamental threat to global health and development. This report provides yet further evidence that investing to tackle the problem now will save lives and deliver big payoffs in the future,” Tim Jinks, head of the Wellcome Trust’s drug-resistant infections priority program, tells The Guardian.

Among the 36 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), resistance to second- and third-line antibiotics—the most advanced drugs available to treat infections after initial rounds fail—is expected to be 70 percent higher in 2030 than it was in 2005, according to a press release.

The report suggests that to combat the superbug rise, governments use tactics such as promoting hygiene practices, such as hand washing, and ending over-prescribing of antibiotics. For $2 per person per year, three out of four deaths from superbugs could be averted, according to the release. 

“Investing $2 per person per year in a comprehensive package encompassing public health measures would avoid about 47,000 deaths per year in OECD countries,” Michele Cecchini of the OECD’s health division tells CNBC. “The public health package could pay for itself within just one year and end up by saving $4.8 billion of dollars per year in OECD countries.”

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