Almost 10,000 people in Ireland will die between now and 2050 unless something is done to tackle superbugs’ growing resistance to medicines, according to a report.
The figures are laid out in an OECD report entitled “Stemming the Superbug Tide”, which predicts that roughly 2.4 million people could die in Europe, North America and Australia between 2015 and 2050 “due to superbug infections unless more is done to stem antibiotic resistance”.
It says antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which is the ability of bacteria to resist medicines, is driven by inappropriate use of antimicrobials, including antibiotics, in human health, agriculture and livestock production and by contamination of the environment.
The OECD warns that the rising rates of AMR specifically pose threats to the elderly and babies - and that “even small cuts in the kitchen, minor surgery or diseases like pneumonia could become life threatening”.
The report warns that superbugs are developing an increased resistance to medicines due to a significant increase in the consumption of antibiotics since 1980. It found that while countries such as France and Greece have shows consistently higher consumption rates, Ireland has seen growing rates over this period.
The study’s authors found that, on average, 17% of infections were estimated to be due to resistant bacteria across the OECD. However this figure varies across the OECD countries.
While Ireland comes in around the average at 16.6%, just 3.5% of infections in Iceland were due to superbugs’ resisitances - the lowest in the OECD.
Turkey, Korea and Greece posted the highest proportion among OECD countries, where more than a third of infections were due to bacteria’s resistance to medication.
Using these figures, the authors estimate that the growing resistance of such diseases will cause 9,794 deaths in Ireland between now and 2050 - compared to just 40 in Iceland and over 1 million in the United States.
However the reports’ authors believe the growth of AMR can be tackled through cost-effective measures, and said “three out of four deaths from superbug infections could be averted by spending just $2 per person a year on measures as simple as handwashing and more prudent prescription of antibiotics”.
“A short-term investment to stem the superbug tide would save lives and money in the long-run,” the report states.
“A five-pronged assault on antimicrobial resistance -- by promoting better hygiene, ending over-prescription of antibiotics, rapid testing for patients to determine whether they have viral or bacterial infections, delays in prescribing antibiotics and mass media campaigns – is vital to stem the superbug tide.
“Policies to promote hand washing, to enhance hygiene in healthcare facilities and stewardship programmes in healthcare facilities could avert between 34.931 and 37,836 deaths per year across the 33 countries included in the analysis.
“Other interventions such as mass media campaigns, delayed prescriptions and use of rapid diagnostic tests produce a positive, but more limited, health impact,” it said.