Drug-resistant superbugs could become deadlier than cancer

Superbugs are on track to kill 10 million people a year by 2050--more than those who die from cancer, warned UK Chancellor George Osborne, who urged for global and radical action to fight the threat from bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics.

These drug-resistant bugs are "an even greater threat to mankind than cancer," said Osborne, who was in the District of Columbia late last week during a meeting of the International Monetary Fund, The Guardian reported. It's not just a health problem, he said, it is also an economic issue.

"The cost of doing nothing, both in terms of lives lost and money wasted, is too great, and the world needs to come together, he said, according to The Telegraph.

Osborne called on leaders to shift incentives to encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop new antibiotics. He also urged improvements in diagnostics to curb the use of unnecessary antibiotics to fight infections.

The focus on new drugs is critical because it can take 10 to 15 years to develop new antibiotic therapies at a cost of close to $1 billion, Colin Garner, founder and chief executive of Antibiotic Research UK, said in an interview with News-Medical. "This is extremely concerning since the problem of antibiotic resistance is here and now," he said.

U.S. health officials have also sounded the alarm about drug-resistant bacteria. Last month the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) zeroed in on six bacteria considered the most deadly threats, including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) and VRE (vancomycin-resistant enterococci).

In the report, the CDC called on hospital and healthcare system leaders to help prevent infection by making sure staff follow hand-hygiene, isolation and environmental device-cleaning best practices.

To learn more:
- read The Guardian article
- check out The Telegraph story
- here's the News-Medical interview