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Superbug deaths expected to outnumber cancer deaths by 2050 thanks to overused antibiotics

Superbug deaths

(NaturalNews) Recently, a report published in The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance noted that, unless serious action is taken to address the problem of antibiotic-resistant drugs, then society should brace themselves for devastating changes starting in 2050. The report states that, if the situation is not brought under control, upwards of 10 million people will likely die every year, while costing hundreds of trillions of dollars in attempts to resolve the problem. The predicted annual mortality rate means that more people would die than those who currently die annually from cancer, a disease that's known to attack the body, often with relentless vigor.(1,2)

However, the potential problem isn't limited strictly to antibiotics either.

Jim O'Neill, an economist who is also the chair of The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, and involved with the published paper, explained that the situation involves all antimicrobials -- an entire class of drugs that includes antibiotics as well as antiparasitics, antivirals and antifungals.(1)

The severe health implications of a world facing "the dark age of medicine"

The report, titled, "Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations," paints a rater bleak portrait of the future where so-called superbugs might take over the health and economies around the world. One chapter in the report, which discusses the serious trickle-down effects of ineffective antibiotics, even questions whether the future may be "a return to the dark age of medicine." In that section, the report explains a world without antibiotics as follows:

One of the greatest worries about AMR [antimicrobial resistance] is that modern health systems and treatments that rely heavily on antibiotics could be severely undermined. When most surgery is undertaken, patients are given prophylactic antibiotics to reduce the risk of bacterial infections.

In a world where antibiotics do not work, this measure would become largely useless and surgery would become far more dangerous.

It also states the following regarding AMR's potential impact, reinforcing just the extreme severity of this:

The great strides forward made over the past few decades to manage malaria and HIV could be reversed, with these diseases once again spiralling out of control.

Economic consequences of AMR

That chapter goes on to explain that this involves a range of treatments and procedures from hip surgeries and chemotherapy to organ transplants and caesarean sections. Not only would health be gravely jeopardized, but other factors such as missed days or diminished productivity at work adds to the many social and economic complexities surrounding this issue.

O'Neill, who was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron to head this AMR review, says that the economic consequences may likely grow to $100 trillion. He said, "To put that in context, the annual GDP (gross domestic product) of the UK is about $3 [trillion], so this would be the equivalent of around 35 years without the UK contribution to the global economy."(2)

Drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB), malaria and E. coli are being eyed as having the largest effect on health; it's estimated that, in both the United States and Europe, antimicrobial-resistance deaths are at about 50,000 annually, a number to increase more than 10-fold by 2050.(2)

Misuse and overuse of antimicrobials responsible for resistance

The report explains the main reason why AMR is occurring:

Any use of antimicrobials, however appropriate and conservative, contributes to the development of resistance, but widespread unnecessary and excessive use makes it worse. Overuse and misuse of antimicrobials is facilitated in many places by their availability over the counter and without prescription, but even where this is not the case prescribing practices vary hugely between (and often within) countries. Such issues are only made worse by large quantities of counterfeit and sub-standard antimicrobials permeating the pharmaceuticals markets in some regions.(3)

To help prevent such catastrophic consequences from happening, O'Neill suggests working toward eliminating the need to turn to such drugs in the first place. To that end, he advocates more people become involved with infection-control measures that focus on basic health and sanitation. He also urges embracing science and technological measures that will help accelerate worldwide reporting of the ways that infections are treated and, in turn, expedite discoveries to fight AMR.

Furthermore, he explains that AMR doesn't only involve humans.

O'Neill wrote, "We need coherent international action that spans drug regulation and antimicrobial drugs use across humans, animals and the environment.... This is a looming global crisis, yet one which the world can avert if we take action soon."(3)

Sources for this article include:

(1) http://www.dailymail.co.uk

(2) http://www.bbc.com

(3) http://amr-review.org[PDF]

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