A new report commissioned by the UK government contains an alarming prediction: by 2050, antimicrobial resistant infections will kill 10 million people across the world — more than the current toll from cancer.
Microbes have always evolved to resist the drugs that are invented to fight them off. But, the report reads, "Resistance has increasingly become a problem in recent years because the pace at which we are discovering novel antibiotics has slowed drastically, while antibiotic use is rising."
Without antibiotics that work, common medical procedures like hip operations, cesarean sections, or chemotherapy will become more dangerous.
"The great strides forward made over the past few decades to manage malaria and HIV could be reversed, with these diseases once again spiraling out of control," the report says.
Right now, it's estimated that antimicrobial-resistant infections kill 50,000 people each year in Europe and the US. To respond to what is increasingly seen as an urgent problem, governments around the world have been implementing policies and awards that encourage faster drug develop and discourage the overuse of antibiotics.
But, if actions aren't taken quickly enough, the new report warns, drug-resistant infections will kill an extra 10 million people per year around the world by 2050 and associated costs will soar to $100 trillion worldwide.
The studies estimate that, under the scenarios described below, 300 million people are expected to die prematurely because of drug resistance over the next 35 years and the world's GDP will be 2 to 3.5% lower than it otherwise would be in 2050. This means that between now and 2050 the world can expect to lose between 60 and 100 trillion USD worth of economic output if antimicrobial drug resistance is not tackled. This is equivalent to the loss of around one year's total global output over the period, and will create significant and widespread human suffering.