Saving antibiotics so that antibiotics can save lives

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Ever since antibiotics were first developed and heralded as a miracle of modern medicine more than half a century ago, experts have warned of the dangers of their misuse. By exposing bugs to just enough medicine to encourage resistance, the fear was that we would end up encouraging germs to evade the very drugs that were designed to counter their impact.

The warnings weren’t heeded. In just a few decades, the widespread failure of our best drugs went from being a far-off possibility to a global reality. Currently, 700,000 people die every year because of drug-resistant pathogens, with those living in the poorest parts of the world being hit hardest. But this isn’t just about antibiotics. It also applies to drugs used against big global killers such as HIV and malaria.

Without immediate action, previously treatable infections and minor surgical procedures will once again become potentially fatal, killing an estimated 10 million people a year by 2050, according to the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance. The lives lost could cost the global economy $100 trillion. Add to this the cost of treatment, lost productivity, longer hospitalizations and the knock-on effects on farmers and livestock, and the scale of the problem becomes apparent…

First published by the Wall Street Journal on 15th September 2016. To find out how we solve this problem, please read the rest of this article, jointly written by Jeremy Farrar of the Wellcome Trust.

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