Influential report warns that medicine could go back to the dark ages unless the world acts soon
Resistance to antibiotics could lead to the deaths of ten million people a year globally by 2050, a report commissioned by the UK government has warned.
The research, described as “hugely influential” by the BBC, was led by economist Jim O’Neill who said that unless the world acts soon medicine could be “cast back into the dark ages”.
“We need to inform in different ways, all over the world, why it’s crucial we stop treating our antibiotics like sweets,” he said.
Comparing the increasing resistance to antibiotics to “facing a growing enemy with a largely depleted armoury”, O’Neill said the report’s recommendations were difficult but necessary.
“We have made some pretty challenging recommendations which require everybody to get out of the comfort zone, because if we don’t then we are not going to be able to solve this problem,” he said.
Many antibiotics that were once thought to have put an end to infectious disease are “no longer working because the bugs have become resistant to them”, explains The Guardian, citing tuberculosis as a prime example.
O’Neill’s Review on Antimicrobial Resistance says the global financial cost of no action would be the loss of ten million lives a year by 2050 and £69tn a year.
Amongst the report’s recommendations is the proposal to force drug companies to either research and develop new antibiotics or be prepared to fund other companies to do so.
“We have not seen a truly new class of antibiotics for decades. It is in policy makers’ hands to change this,” O’Neill said.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, the government’s chief medical officer for England, who previously described antimicrobial resistance as “as big a risk as terrorism”, welcomed the report’s findings, saying: “At present around seven per cent of deaths are due to infections. If we do not act, this could rise to 40 per cent – as it was before we had antibiotics.”
There is a “genuine fear that the world is heading into a post-antibiotic era”, says the BBC health editor James Gallagher.
“A simple cut to your finger could leave you fighting for your life. Luck will play a bigger role in your future than any doctor could.”