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  • Superbugs could erase a century of medical advances

    Published on November 19, 2013

    medicineThe rise of drug-resistant superbugs could undo a century’s worth of medical advancements and render seemingly routine surgeries deadly in the very near future, UK experts have warned.

    Experts, including England’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, writing in The Lancet, warn that death rates from bacterial infections “might return to those of the early 20th century”.

    “Without antibiotics, treatments from minor surgery to major transplants could become impossible, and health-care costs are likely to spiral as we resort to newer, more expensive antibiotics and sustain longer hospital admissions,” experts added.

    The strategies to combat the rise in resistance include cutting the amount of antibiotics prescribed, improving hospital hygiene and incentivising the pharmaceutical industry to work on novel antibiotics and antibiotic alternatives, experts said.

    There are no reliable estimates of what resistance could cost health systems in the future, the report said.

    Joanna Coast, professor of health economics at the University of Birmingham, said that the problem of resistance had the potential to “affect how entire health systems work”.

    “We don’t know how big this is going to be. It’s like the problems with planning for global warming. We know what the costs are now but we don’t know what the costs will be into the future,” Coast said.

    Experts said in order to meet demand without increasing resistance, drug companies will need to find new ways of financing antibiotic development that are not linked to expectations of large volume sales.