WORLD NEWS Fears over rise in the number of deaths from superbugs

By Anne Gulland, Global Health Security Correspondent

SUPERBUGS do as much damage in Europe as flu, HIV and tuberculosis combined, a study has found.

‘We’re already beginning to see patients affected with such organisms in hospitals in the UK’

New data shows an estimated 33,000 people died from infections that were resistant to antibiotics in 2015, out of a total of 670,000 cases in Europe.

The study, the first detailed calculation of deaths from superbugs ever undertaken, finds the picture is highly variable, with Italy accounting for around a third of all deaths and cases. In the UK there were 52,000 cases and 2,100 deaths in the same year.

Antimicrobial resistance, where previously treatable infections become immune to antibiotics, is seen as the single gravest threat to modern medicine by Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer. The rise in the number of such infections is down to an upsurge in the use of antibiotics in both humans and animals, and a lack of new drugs.

The study, published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, found that drug-resistant E.coli infections were the most common superbug, killing 9,000 people across Europe in 2015.

Around three quarters of resistant infections were acquired in hospitals and other healthcare settings.

Dr Ron Daniels, chief executive of the Sepsis Trust, said: “We’re already beginning to see patients affected with such organisms in hospitals in the UK, and the problem is likely to worsen.

“It’s absolutely critical that policymakers, funding agencies, the commercial sector and clinicians work together with patients … if we’re to avoid a situation where we are powerless to treat what are currently relatively benign infections.”

Grahame White