An additional 10 million people all over the world will likely die every year by 2050 because of drug-resistant diseases, a new study says.
Superbugs are expected to become one of the leading causes of deaths globally, overtaking even cancer in the next 30 years, according to a report commissioned by the United Kingdom government. These infections are also likely to cost the world as much as $100 trillion.
Jim O'Neill, a leading British economist and author of the study, explained how such events could impact world governments.
"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," O'Neill told the BBC.
With much of the global population dead or suffering from serious illnesses, the economic output of the world would be cut by 2 to 3.5 percent.
All of these are expected to come to pass if nothing is done to check the spread of drug-resistant illnesses.
Review On Antibacterial Resistance
Former British Prime Minister David Cameron requested a review on antimicrobial resistance or AMR. To carry out the task, O'Neill teamed up with research professionals from Rand Europe and KPMG.
As many as 700,000 people all over the world die every year because of superbug infections. In the United States and Europe alone, at least 50,000 are killed annually due to AMR.
If no action is taken, the spread of drug-resistant diseases could result in the deaths of 10 million people by 2050, according to the researchers. Models suggest that Asia and Africa would be the worst-hit regions of the world, with 4.7 million and 4.1 million deaths respectively.
O'Neill said India could suffer an additional 2 million deaths every year, while Nigeria could suffer more than one in four deaths because of antimicrobial resistance.
Superbug infections such as tuberculosis, malaria, and those caused by the E. coli bacteria, are expected to have the biggest impact on the global population.
Medical Treatments Affected by AMR
Several medical procedures depend on antibiotics to keep infections from happening. These include Caesarean sections, chemotherapy, joint replacements, and organ transplant surgeries.
If antibiotics were to continue to lose their effectiveness, it would cause such measures to become riskier and more life-threatening to patients. It could also cause some medical procedures to become impossible to conduct altogether.
In 2014, O'Neill and his team said they are planning to explore what actions could be made to prevent further AMR. One of their priorities was how to change the way people use certain drugs. This could help curb the increase of antibiotic resistance moving forward.
The researchers said they are also looking at how to boost the development of new medications. They wanted to push for world governments to make a coherent action regarding drug use on both animals and humans.
For such strategies to be carried out, O'Neill said it was important to gain the cooperation of BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey) countries.