The Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics has responded to Jim O’Neil’s report for the Prime Minister on the true cost of antibiotic resistance, which he says could reach $100 trillion dollars.

The devastating human and economic impact of rising antimicrobial resistance forecast by a new government-commissioned report, shows that much more urgent action is needed to reduce antibiotic use in all sectors, including farming, according to the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics.

The report, by economist Jim O’Neill, says that by 2050, drug-resistant infections will kill an extra ten million people a year worldwide and that the total global cost of antimicrobial resistance will be $100 trillion [1]. Once the impact of antimicrobial resistance on modern healthcare treatments like surgery or cancer treatments is taken into account, the report says the total cost could rise to $210 trillion.

E. coli is identified as the bacterial infection which will have the greatest economic impact, accounting for nearly half the total cost [2].

Many scientists believe that the overuse of antibiotics in farming is contributing significantly to the rise of resistance in human E. coli infections, with some even saying that for resistant E. coli “We are what we eat” [3].

Coilin Nunan, the Principle Scientific Adviser to the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, says: “This report shows the urgent need to tackle the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in farming. According to the World Health Organization, more antibiotics are used worldwide to treat healthy animals than are used to treat sick humans [4]. Most farm antibiotics are used to lower the cost of producing intensively farmed pigs and chickens, rather than for improving animal health and welfare.

“We now know that this cheap-food policy is fundamentally misguided as the huge societal costs being forecast are simply not affordable.

“We urgently need the government, farmers and retailers address the problem and to put an end to the routine use of antibiotics in animal feed and drinking water.”

Notes to Editors
[1] Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, Tackling a crisis for the health and wealth of nations
[2] E. coli is forecast to have the greatest economic impact, but malaria is forecast to cause the greatest number of fatalities
[3] Vieira et al., 2011, Association between antimicrobial resistance in Escherichia coli isolates from food animals and blood stream isolates from humans in Europe: an ecological study,
Collignon, 2009, Resistant E. coli – we are what we eat
[4] WHO, 2012. The evolving threat of antimicrobial resistance: Options for action

The Sustainable Food Trust is a member of the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, which was founded by the Soil Association, Compassion in World Farming and Sustain.

Featured image by Petra Fritz

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