Millions of people in Europe, North America and Australia will die of superbugal infections unless countries prioritize fighting the growing threat posed by bacteria immune to most known drugs, experts predicted Wednesday.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has warned of the "disastrous consequences" for public health and spending unless the basic hygiene of the hospital is stimulated and the unnecessary use of antibiotics is reduced.
Drug-resistant bacteria killed more than 33,000 people in Europe by 2015, according to new research published separately this week.
In a landmark report, the OECD said 2.4 million people could die of superbugs by 2050 and said that the cost of treating these infections would increase to an average of $ 3.5 billion per year in each country included in their analysis .
Michele Cecchini, the OECD public health leader, told AFP that countries are already spending an average of 10 percent of their health budgets on antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bugs.
"AMR costs more than influenza, more than HIV, more than tuberculosis, and it will cost even more if countries do not take action to address this problem," he said.
& # 39; DEATH ENORMOS & # 39;
As humans increasingly consume antibiotics – whether through prescriptions or agricultural and livestock products given drugs to prevent infection -, strains of bacteria are emerging that resist the effects of drugs designed to kill them.
In low- and middle-income countries, resistance is already high: in Indonesia, Brazil and Russia, up to 60% of bacterial infections are already resistant to at least one antibiotic.
And the growth of AMR infections is predicted to be four to seven times faster by 2030 than it is today.
"These high levels of resistance in health systems, which are already weakened by tight budgets, will create the conditions for a huge number of deaths that will be mainly borne by newborns, very young children and the elderly," the report said.
"Even minor cuts in the kitchen, minor surgeries or illnesses like pneumonia can become fatal."
Perhaps more worrying is the OECD's prediction that resistance to so-called second- and third-line antibiotic treatments – glass infection in case of emergency – will increase by 70% by 2030.
"They are antibiotics that, as far as possible, we do not want to use, because we want this as a backup," Cecchini said.
"Essentially, we are using more when we should use less and we are running out of our best options in an emergency."
HOW TO AVOID DISASTER
The group, which advises the World Health Organization on public health initiatives, said the only way to prevent a disaster is to implement immediate changes in the behavior of the sector.
The report called on health professionals to ensure better universal standards of hygiene in hospitals and clinics by insisting that the whole team hand-lined and adapted to more stringent safety regimes.
He also suggested that resistance could be tackled with better and faster tests to determine if an infection is viral – meaning antibiotics are useless – or bacterial.
New swab tests may come in a matter of minutes, and Cecchini also introduced the idea of "late prescriptions" to undermine the overuse of antibiotics by getting patients to wait three days before they get their antibiotics – about the time needed for an infection viral to follow its course.
In the technique trials, two-thirds of patients who received delayed antibiotic prescriptions never collected the drug.
The OECD said these changes would cost only $ 2 per person per year and would save millions of lives and billions of dollars by the middle of the century.
"They would reduce the RAM burden in those countries by 75 percent," said Cecchini. "It would pay off in a few months and produce substantial savings."