A study says that drug resistant infections will kill an extra 10 million people a year worldwide by 2050, more than currently die from cancer.
The analysis was presented by the economist Jim O’Neil who estimates the costs to spiral to $100 trillion. To put that in context, the annual gross domestic product of the UK is about $3 trillion, so this would be the equivalent of about 35 years without the UK contribution to the global economy.
The reduction in population and the impact on ill-health would reduce the world economic output by between 2% and 3.5%.
The analysis was based on scenarios modelled by researchers Rand Europe and auditor KPMG.
From the data, researchers found that drug resistant E. coli, malaria and tuberculosis would have the biggest impact.
In Europe and the United States, antimicrobial resistance causes a least 50,000 deaths each year. Left unchecked, deaths would rise more than 10-fold by 2050.
The review team believes its analysis represents a significant underestimate of the potential impact of failing to tackle drug resistance. This suspicion hinges on the data not including the effects on healthcare of a world in which antibiotics no longer worked.
Joint replacements, caesarean sections, chemotherapy and transplant are just a few of the many treatments that depend on antibiotics being available to prevent infections.
Without effective antibiotics, these procedures would become much riskier and in many cases impossible.
Researchers are not exploring what action could be taken to avert this looming crisis. This includes investigating how drugs could be changed to reduce the rise of resistance, how to boost the development of new drugs, and the need for coherent international action concerning drug use in humans and animals.
China will be hosting the 2016 G20 summit; hopefully this issue will be a focus of discussion.