Last week looked at what antibiotic resistance was and now we move onto the second big question:
What’s the big deal?
700,000 people die each year currently from antibiotic resistant infections. Fun fact: that’s more than double the population of Iceland!
If that’s not a big enough deal, then consider that that number is expected to grow to over 10 million per year globally by 2050. Even cancer, today’s deadly killer, kills less at 8.2 million lives per year. And the cost of this resistance is estimated at over $100 trillion in today’s dollars.
What’s even harder to comprehend is the fact that normal operations could barely occur. Simple surgical procedures such as removal of tonsils or appendix that rarely have complications could easily become life threatening and quite possibly too risky to even attempt. Major operations, including those such as Caesarean sections would be incredibly dangerous.
Those with already compromised immune systems would be unable to fight off the infection without antibiotic help and would die in a post-antibiotic world. Although superbugs aren’t any harder for your body to kill than other bacteria, you’re just left without any extra help from antibiotics. So a healthy immune system should still cover most minor scrapes and infections.
And what’s most disconcerting is that this happens within our lifetimes. In just over 30 years time, most of us will be faced with the widespread pain of loss and death from antibiotic resistant bacteria in proportions above that of cancer. Almost everyone has experienced loss of loved ones from cancer and it’s heartbreaking to imagine the same magnitude of loss from superbugs.
The loss of antibiotics could take our healthcare back to pre-twentieth century and would be catastrophic and devastating.
For more, read The Biochemist Blog post on a year without antibiotics.