The first of five independent reviews that address the growing issue of antimicrobial resistance was published today.
During July, the UK government launched an antimicrobial ’war cabinet’, bringing together research councils as part of an initiative to tackle the global issue of resistance to antimicrobials.
Today’s Review, commissioned by the UK government and The Wellcome Trust, describes both the potential health and economic consequences if antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is not effectively tackled.
“Our research underlines that acting quickly is crucial
Review chairman Jim O’Neill
The Review outlines the possibility of a crisis being avoided, even throughout countries where health infrastructure needs major improvement.
Chairman of the Review Jim O’Neill said that by the summer of 2016, a “package of actions” will be recommended that should be agreed internationally.
To ensure this, O’Neill said the reviews will focus of five themes, starting with the impact of AMR as outlined in the first Review published today.
The other four Review themes will include: How we can change our use of antimicrobial drugs to reduce the rise of resistance, including the game-changing potential of advances in genetics, genomics and computer science; How we can boost the development of new antimicrobial drugs; The potential for alternative therapies to disrupt the rise in resistance and how these new ideas can be boosted and; The need for coherent international action that spans drugs regulation, and drugs use across humans, animals and the environment.
According to statistics, AMR currently claims the lives of more than 50,000 people per year in the US and Europe, with thousands more dying in other areas around the world.
Unless AMR is successfully tackled, estimates in the Review suggest that it could be attributable to 10 million deaths per year by 2050.
There is also an economic cost to consider, however.
Results taken from two high-level assessments of the future economic impact of AMR suggest that if left unchecked, AMR could account for a 3.5% loss in global output by 2050 - effectively costing between 60 and 100 trillion US Dollars.
The Review also takes into account the impact of AMR on specific regions, such as those countries which already have high malaria, HIV or tuberculosis (TB) rates - suggesting these areas are likely to particularly suffer as resistance to current treatments increases.
For countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the cumulative loss of economic output by 2050 will amount to between 20 and 35 trillion US Dollars.
“Our research underlines that acting quickly is crucial,” O’Neill says in the Review.
“The development of resistance is an evolutionary inevitability, even where antimicrobials are used properly and sparingly.
“However, the high level estimates we commissioned show just how important it is that we do everything we can both to slow the spread of resistance, and to ensure that we are able to mitigate its impact with effective new treatments to replace those that it renders obsolete.”
Fortunately, there is already cause for optimism, O’Neill says.
The Review team has already met with university researchers and biotech entrepreneurs working on early-stage development of new drugs, vaccines and alternative therapies.
Furthermore, there is an international governance framework with the World Health Organisation (WHO) taking the lead to agree a global action plan to tackle AMR between 194 countries this spring, the Review team said.
A copy of the full Review can be downloaded here.