The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an intergovernmental organization with over 30 member countries that was founded in 1961, has released a new report on antibiotic resistance.
In “Stemming the Superbug Tide: Just a Few Dollars More,” OECD reports that “superbug” infections are expected to cause 2.4 million deaths in Europe, North America, and Australia over the next 30 years. But, they found that most of these fatalities could be prevented by an investment of just $2 per person (that’s U.S. dollars or USD).
Antibiotics (also referred to as antimicrobials) are used to fight infections in humans and animals. They are often over-prescribed to patients suffering from mild infections, or those that are caused by viruses, which antibiotics do not affect.
Antibiotic use in livestock production is also considered a significant contributor to the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). These drugs are given often not to heal sick animals, but instead as a preventive medication to stave off the infections that are so common when animals are kept in such large numbers and close quarters. The OECD reports that that “in the United States, antimicrobial use in the livestock sector accounted for about 80% of the total antimicrobial sales” (OECD Report, 2018).
As an economic organization, the OECD of course looked at the cost/benefit analysis of treating antibiotic resistance as it occurs, versus working to prevent outbreaks. They found that “a short-term investment to stem the superbug tide would save lives and money in the long run” (OECD Press Release, 2018). By one estimate, implementing just some of OECDs measures could save member countries $4.8 billion (USD) each year.
They recommend a “five-pronged assault on antimicrobial resistance”:
- Promote improvements in hygiene
- Ending over-use of prescription antibiotics
- Rapid testing methods to differentiate bacterial and viral infections
- Delays before prescribing antibiotics
- Mass media PR campaigns
The most vulnerable populations? Children and the elderly. And, resistance proportions vary greatly across the regions studied. Iceland has some of the lowest rates of resistance (around 5%) while in low and middle-income countries like Turkey, Korea, Brazil, and Indonesia the resistance rates are 40-50%.
Overall resistance rates seems to be growing more slowly than in the past, but resistance to what is called ” second” or “third-line” antibiotics – the “most advanced and effective line of defense” – is expected to rise quickly, leaving doctors with few viable tools in their medication toolbox.
“The extensive use of antimicrobials in livestock production makes agriculture a critical sector in the fight against AMR [antimicrobial resistance].”
–OECD, Stemming the Super Bug Tide
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year,” Press Release: November 07, 2018.
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. “Stemming the Superbug Tide: Just A Few Dollars More,” 2018, OECD Publishing.