Superbugs, or bacteria that have developed resistance to antibiotics, have become more sophisticated.
According to the World Health Organization, there are at least 700,000 deaths per year that could be attributed to antibiotic resistance.
This number can reach to 10 million deaths by the year 2050, according to the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance. According to the organization, "10 million lives a year and a cumulative $100 trillion of economic output are at risk due to the rise of drug resistant infections."
It is alarming to note that more than half of the world's bacteria have developed a resistance to antibiotics, including colistin, an old antibiotic that was rarely used because of its extreme side effects. Recently, it has been used again because other antibiotics have lost their effectiveness.
Factors That Contribute to Antibiotic Resistance
According to Prof. Michael Gardam, professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, overprescription is the leading cause of antibiotic resistance, as it is becoming the norm to use antibiotics at the slightest sign of sickness, instead of using it as a last resort.
Gardam also cites the use of antibacterial soap and toothpaste as a contributing factor, as well as society's predilection for overcleaning. The professor said that these antibacterial products are completely unnecessary, adding "your mouth is not meant to be a sterile zone."
The animal farming sector also plays a big role in the increased antibiotic resistance. Many factory farms feed healthy animals with antibiotics not to treat illness, but to promote growth and reproduction. Factory farming is the practice of raising a large number of livestock in overcrowded facilities.
Since the spread of disease is a very real possibility if the animals are kept in close quarters to each other, they are fed with daily doses of antibiotic drugs to prevent this from happening. This drug overuse weakened the potency of the antibiotics and increased the resistance of bacteria.
What Is Being Done To Avert A Medical Crisis
In order to stave off a medical crisis, various governments have implemented stricter agricultural regulation regarding the use of antibiotics.
Organizations are putting the pressure on large mass food companies such as Yum! Brands and Domino's to stop antibiotics use in their food supply chains. More and more people are also preferring to eat organically grown food such as antibiotic-free meat.
Pharmaceutical Industry Needs To Step Up
Unfortunately, the number of new antibiotics approved by the US FDA has dwindled significantly in the last couple of years, and the lack of innovation from pharmaceutical research companies have also contributed to the rise of superbugs.