HEALTH Superbugs resistant to antibiotics likely to kill 90,000 Britons

By Henry Bodkin

MORE than 90,000 people will die due to antibiotic resistance in the UK over the next 30 years, estimates suggest.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) warned that superbug infections will kill about 2.4 million people across Europe, North America and Australia by 2050 unless more is done to limit drug-resistant superbugs. This includes about 1.3 million deaths across Europe.

The report estimates that 90,045 Britons will die over the next 30 years from infections that are resistant to treatment. Simple measures such as hand-washing and more prudent prescriptions of antibiotics could avert some of the deaths, the authors said. Better hygiene, ending the “over-prescription” of antibiotics and enhancing rapid testing to ensure patients are being prescribed the right drugs are some of the measures that could overcome the threat, the OECD said.

Three out of four deaths could be averted by spending just $2 (£1.50) per person a year, the OECD calculated.

A short-term investment would save money in the long run, they added, saying that dealing with antimicrobial resistance complications could cost up to $3.5 billion (£2.6 billion) each year on average across the 33 countries included in the analysis.

Resistance is already high and projected to grow even more rapidly in low and middle-income countries.

The report warns that southern Europe risks being particularly affected, with Italy, Greece and Portugal forecast to top the list of OECD countries with the highest mortality rates from antimicrobial resistance.

It adds that resistance to second and third-line antibiotics – used as back-ups to treat infections when common antibiotics do not work – is expected to grow over the coming decades. The report follows Public Health England launching a campaign to try to prevent people from asking for the drugs when they do not need them.

Tim Jinks, head of the Wellcome Trust’s Drug-Resistant Infections Priority Programme, said: “This report provides further evidence that investing to tackle the problem now will save lives and deliver big pay-offs in the future.”

Grahame White