Emerging threats: drug-resistant ‘superbugs’

Published: Wednesday, 25 May 2016 10:02

Imagine the scenario: an employee comes to work sick, within days she has died from an untreatable infection and a substantial number of her work colleagues have contracted the infection and have a high risk of suffering the same fate. The business facility is empty due to official quarantine rules and production has ceased.

The above situation could become a regular occurrence unless the World acts on antimicrobial resistance (AMR): drug-resistant ‘superbugs’ are undoubtedly an emerging business continuity and enterprise risk.

The issue of drug-resistance was highlighted recently in a new report published by the UK Government. The ‘Review on Antimicrobial Resistance: Tackling drug-resistant infections globally,’ sets out final recommendations and a comprehensive action plan for the World to prevent drug-resistant infections and defeat the rising threat of superbugs.

The report sets out the scale of the challenge, stating that superbugs could kill 10 million people a year by 2050, the equivalent of 1 person every 3 seconds, and more than cancer kills today; they would result in the world being ‘cast back into the dark ages of medicine’. The cumulative economic cost is estimated as around 100 trillion USD by 2050.

The report describes 10 areas where the World needs to take action to tackle antimicrobial resistance. Many of these measures focus on how we can reduce the unnecessary use of antimicrobials, and so the rate at which resistance increases, making our current drugs last longer. Others look at how we can increase the supply of new antimicrobial drugs because, even if we reduce unnecessary use, our arsenal to defeat superbugs is running out and needs to be replenished.

Commenting at the launch of the report Lord Jim O’Neill, Chairman of the Review on AMR, said: “My Review not only makes it clear how big a threat AMR is to the world, with a potential 10 million people dying each year by 2050, but also now sets out a workable blueprint for bold, global action to tackle this challenge. The actions that I’m setting out today are ambitious in their scope – but this is a problem which it is well within our grasp to solve if we take action now. I call on the governments of the G7, G20 and the UN to take real action in 2016 on the ten proposals made by my Review, to avoid the terrible human and economic costs of resistance that the world would otherwise face.”

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General, World Health Organization, said: “WHO warmly welcomes this thorough and compelling review so brilliantly overseen by Lord O’Neill. Its 10-point platform for responding to antimicrobial resistance takes forward many issues raised in the WHO Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance. Importantly, the review tackles the burning need to find incentives that can get new products into the pipeline. If not, the scenario it paints for 2050 will surely jolt the last remaining sceptics into action.”

Read the report at www.amr-review.org